Ranger Killed in Mount Rainier National Park, Gunman at Large

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Washington, January 1, 2012 (ENS) – A ranger in Mount Rainier National Park was fatally shot Sunday morning as she attempted to stop a vehicle that had eluded another ranger checking to see that cars had chains on their tires in the snowy, mountainous terrain.

The gunman is still at large and the 368-square-mile park 75 miles south of Seattle is closed as officials from the U.S. Forest Service, the FBI, the Washington State Patrol, and sheriffs from surrounding counties continue their search for the suspect.

Park officials confirm that Margaret Anderson, 34, was shot and killed at about 10:20 am near Paradise about 4,500 feet up the mountain.

Anderson set up a roadblock with her vehicle after the first ranger radioed for backup, while continuing to pursue the fleeing vehicle. In an exchange of gunfire, the suspect shot her there and fled on foot, after shooting at the other ranger and missing. Both rangers’ cars were hit numerous times.

Mount Rainier, 75 miles south of Seattle (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

Aproximately 125 park visitors are “in lockdown” at Paradise Visitor Center with national park staff law enforcement officials in attendance, said park spokesperson Lee Snook.

“We’re looking for a safe way to get them out because the road is in the vicinity of where the suspect was last seen,” said Snook.

Special teams are on the ground searching for the suspect armed with night night vision equipment to detect him in the dark, Snook said. Dogs and canine handlers have been requested to assist in the search.

A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter that flew over the area this afternoon was able to pick up his tracks leaving the area, said Snook.

“His vehicle has been searched and a couple of rifles were found in there,” Snook said. “It looked like he could be ready to stay in the park for awhile; he had gear to stay in the park, but he no longer has that with him.”

People have been legally permitted to take loaded firearms into Mount Rainier National Park since 2010, when Congress passed a controversial law that made possession of firearms in national parks subject to state gun laws.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said, “I am deeply saddened by the tragic, horrific and cowardly murder today at Mount Rainier National Park. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service will do everything possible to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice and to ensure the safety of park visitors and other park rangers.”

“This tragedy serves as a reminder of the risks undertaken by the men and women of the National Park Service and law enforcement officers across the Department every day, and we thank them for their service,” said Salazar. “My thoughts and prayers are with Margaret’s family in this difficult time.”

A veteran ranger with four years of service in Mount Rainier National Park, Anderson leaves her husband Eric Anderson, also a Mount Rainier ranger, who was working elsewhere in the park at the time of the shooting, and two daughters, aged four and two.

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