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Body found in search for suspected gunman at Mt. Rainier park

January 2, 2012 | 11:36 am

Rainier barnes mug lx5eu5pdThe body of a man, possibly that of the suspect responsible for the shooting of a park ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park, has been found face-down in the snow, Washington State Patrol officials have confirmed.

In a brief statement on Twitter, state patrol spokesman Guy Gill emphasized that the body has not been positively identified.

"A body of a white male has been located face down in the snow with no heat signature," the announcement said. "The body found is believed to be that of homicide suspect Benjamin C. Barnes. Again that has not been confirmed."

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said a body has been found but searchers have not yet reached it and positive identification could take several hours.

"We are not saying that we have found him," he said. "We have not gotten to it. We are not near it."

"There's a lot of possibilities out there, whether it could be him or not," Troyer added. "Obviously the strong possibility is that it is. We hope we don't have another victim out there."

If confirmed, the finding would end a massive manhunt that has been underway across the park in Washington state since Sunday morning, when park ranger Margaret Anderson, 34, was shot to death in her vehicle as she attempted to halt a car, believed driven by Barnes, that blew through a safety checkpoint.

Weapons, body armor and survival gear were found in a car registered to Barnes abandoned at the scene. Park officials said they were not certain whether the suspect had any survival gear with him when he fled into the freezing, snowy forest. Barnes, an Iraq war veteran, was reported by his former domestic partner to have serious mental health issues and possible post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his combat service in 2007 and 2008.


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Photo: Benjamin Colton Barnes. Credit: Pierce County Sheriff's Department / Associated Press