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Dead body identified as suspected Mount Rainier gunman

January 2, 2012 |  4:17 pm

 Mount Rainier National Park mourns ranger killed by a gunman inside the park.

The manhunt is over -- authorities have confirmed that the body found Monday at Mt. Rainier National Park is that of Benjamin C. Barnes, the gunman suspected in the fatal shooting of a park ranger a day earlier.

Barnes, 24, an Iraq war veteran who is also suspected in an earlier shooting at a New Year's Eve party near Seattle, was spotted face down in the snow by an overflying aircraft near Narada Falls in the park.

Narada Falls, one of the park's most popular tourist destinations, lies adjacent to Mount Rainier Highway -- most likely unpopulated at the time because the park has been closed for the past two days due to the shooting.

It took snowshoe-clad searchers some time after the aircraft sighting to reach the body and confirm the identification, park spokeswoman Lee Snook said.

"All that I know is it has been confirmed as Benjamin Colton Barnes, and he is the suspect that we have for the death of Margaret Anderson," Snook told the Los Angeles Times. "But they're still investigating. They still have the park closed, and I'm sure there's lots of loose ends that remain to be taken care of."

FBI officials also confirmed Barnes' death but said they could not immediately discuss how he died. A further release of information is pending, spokeswoman Ayn S. Dietrich said.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said it is likely Barnes died of exposure. When found, he said, Barnes was wearing only jeans, a T-shirt and one shoe. 

Meanwhile, officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near the base of Mount Rainier, confirmed that Barnes served as a private first class with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq and was granted a general discharge under honorable conditions in November 2009 after facing criminal charges for driving under the influence and transporting a privately owned weapon improperly.

Barnes' parents, contacted in California, said they did not want to discuss the case.

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 -- Kim Murphy in Seattle

Photo: The flag at an entrance to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state flies at half-staff Monday, the day after Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was killed by a gunman inside the park. Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren.

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