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Ranger’s death ‘couldn’t be prevented’

6:48 pm September 20th, 2012

The fatal shooting of a Mount Rainier National Park ranger last January by a gunman couldn’t have been prevented, but steps are being taken to help ensure that the park’s personnel are well-prepared for any such incidents if they ever happen again.

Those are the findings and recommendations of a National Park Service Board of Review that has completed its examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of ranger Margaret Anderson on New Year’s Day. A report was issued today by the agency.

Anderson was attempting to stop Benjamin Barnes, who had driven through a mandatory tire chains checkpoint in the park, when he opened fire on her. She died at the park.

The board said the response to the shooting by park personnel and law enforcement agencies was well-executed, and that with no advance knowledge of his intent, they “couldn’t have prevented this dangerous, disturbed and determined man” from killing Anderson, said Chris Lehnertz, regional director for the Park Service.

The board made recommendations to update policies and standard operating practices, evaluate and strengthen training, improve crisis communications infrastructure and capabilities, review current equipment, and explore law enforcement partnerships outside the park. Those actions are underway, officials said Thursday.

Randy King, the park’s superintendent, said in an interview this month before the report’s release that the review is important to making certain the park’s staff is as well-trained as possible for any type of emergency.

Barnes died of apparent exposure to the winter elements and drowning after fleeing into the wilderness after the shooting. His body was found during a manhunt by police.

(Read more of this story in the Sept. 26 print edition of The Dispatch)

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