Monday, January 2, 2012

Shame on those who would politicize the murder of a law enforcement officer

Unfortunately, tragedy never takes a holiday --- not even on New Year's Day. 34-year old National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson, the mother of two young daughters, was shot and killed Sunday morning at beautiful Mount Rainier National Park, in Washington State.

The park rangers at Mount Rainier have one of the most important jobs there and they are the park's front-line law enforcement officers. They drive lonely rural roads by themselves and they do everything from responding to car accidents, issuing speeding tickets and arresting lawbreakers. They also respond to fires, hike the park's many miles of trails and help search for lost or injured visitors. They also conduct checkpoints where they inspect vehicles entering the park to see if they are properly equipped with snow chains on their tires.

When the driver of the blue pontiac did not stop at the checkpoint the rangers there radioed for assistance. Ranger Anderson then established a roadblock to stop the car which was now being pursued by another park ranger. When the fleeing driver encountered Ranger Anderson's roadblock, he exited his vehicle and began firing on both Anderson and the other ranger who had been chasing him. Anderson was struck while she was still inside of her car and she never got a chance to get out of it. Even though her wounds were extremely critical, as the subject fled on foot she apparently still was able to radio for help. And although the pursuing ranger's cruiser was peppered with gunfire, he was not injured.

The vehicle was operated by a white male,
Benjamin Colton Barnes. What the park rangers didn't know was that the subject Barnes was a suspect in a shooting that happened about eight hours earlier at a Skyway (King County) home. The subject Barnes and several other armed individuals were apparently having some sort of a "show and tell" with their guns when an argument resulted into a deadly shootout. Four people were shot, and two reportedly were in critical condition.

No one will ever know for sure what Barnes was thinking, or why he acted as he did. But, we can speculate that after he was involved in the Skyway shooting he may have decided to hide out at the 368-square-mile Mount Rainier National Park. He may have reasoned that the cops would never think to look for him there, and if they did they wouldn't be able to find him. We don't know if Barnes already had more weapons and gear in his car when he fled the Skyway home shortly after 3:00 a.m., or if he retrieved them afterwards, but he was heavily armed and equipped with survival gear when he arrived at Mount Rainier National Park at about 10:00 a.m. He apparently planned to survive in the rugged wilderness.

I think it is also safe to speculate that when Barnes first encountered the checkpoint, his guilty conscience told him that the rangers were after him. That's why he blew right past the checkpoint. And, with the one ranger chasing him, and when he saw the roadblock that Ranger Anderson had established with her own car, he must have thought the cops were really after him. It's such a tragedy, again. Like so often happens in traffic stops that turn deadly, the bad guy(s) may have done something very serious, yet the officer(s) are only believing they're stopping them for traffic. There's a definite lesson to be learned here --- again. Never assume you're only stopping an individual for a "routine" reason. There is nothing "routine" about any traffic stop.

As many criminals will often do, when suddenly faced with a very stressful and unexpected encounter, the subject Barnes panicked. After shooting Ranger Anderson, and shooting at the other ranger(s) too, Barnes fled into the nearby woods without any of the survival gear he had arrived with. Approximately 200 officers from a number of different law enforcement agencies were involved in the search for Ranger Anderson's killer. In addition to the search teams on the ground, which included K-9 units, the massive search Monday also involved fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters with sophisticated infrared detection equipment.

Without adequate survival gear the subject Barnes was definitely in a no win situation. He was totally unprepared for the bitter, freezing temperatures and the chest-deep snow he had to maneuver through. When Barnes was eventually found, he was dead. His body was lying half-submerged in Paradise Creek and he was wearing only one tennis shoe, a T-shirt and jeans. He was barely one mile away from where he had first fled into the woods. All indications were that he had died from his harsh exposure to the elements. His body showed no signs of injuries.

At a press conference before Barnes was found, the person conducting the press conference indicated that the police and the park rangers would be very happy if Mother Nature did them a favor and dealt with Barnes before he would be able to do any further harm to anyone else. Well, chalk one up for good old Mother Nature --- and the good guys!

When the body of Barnes was found he reportedly was carrying a handgun, a magazine of ammunition and a knife. Another ammunition magazine was found near Barnes' body and an assault-style rifle was also found about 50 yards upstream. So, when he fled the scene of Ranger Anderson's murder Barnes took his weapons and ammunition, but not his survival gear. Yes, it sounds as though he definitely did intend to do more harm if he could. Thank you Mother Nature!

The subject Barnes was an Iraq war veteran (2007-2008) and while he was there he supposedly served in communications. He had been a private first class and his military service ended in the fall of 2009. He reportedly received a misconduct discharge after he was charged with D.U.I. and improper transport of a privately owned weapon.

Barnes also reportedly had had a difficult time making the transition back to civilian life. He also may have suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and he may have even been suicidal too.

First of all, I feel bad for any military veteran who is having a difficult time after having served our country. I love the brave men and women of our military and will never forget all that they do to help keep us free!

However, when I read some of the posts by individuals who were commenting on the murder of Park Ranger Anderson, I was appalled and disgusted. Some of these people had the nerve to blame Ranger Anderson's murder on --- you guessed it, President George Walker Bush (43rd President). After all, it was President Bush that sent the subject Barnes off to Iraq where he became a ruthless killing machine. Therefore, according to their perverted reasoning, it was the fault of President Bush, and not Barnes' fault. Give me a break! Don't these people have anything better to do than blame President Bush for everything they can. I suppose next we'll hear that it's his fault that................... You pick the topic.

Before I would blame anyone for Barnes' criminal behavior, I would like to remind everyone that there are a great many military veterans, both men and women, who suffer from PTSD, and they don't go around shooting innocent people. They don't kill law enforcement officers.

Also, I would like to know much more about the subject Barnes BEFORE he entered the military. What was he like? I suspect that his love affair with guns was something he had long before he became a soldier. I also suspect that his unpredictable and violent personality was something he had long before he went to Iraq. I could be wrong, of course, but I don't think I am.

Sadly, but it's a true fact, not every person is qualified and/or has the necessary qualities, and mental stability, that would make them a good soldier. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the law enforcement profession too. Some individuals are just not suited for these important roles. I would venture to say that
Benjamin Colton Barnes was one of these individuals. Again, I may be wrong, but before we jump to almost insane conclusions and blame President Bush for this man's criminal behavior, I think we should have all the facts first.

Shame on anyone who would politicize such a tragic thing as the murder of a law enforcement professional.

Ranger Anderson's murder has stunned her colleagues of the National Park Service. Only eight other rangers have been murdered in the line of duty in the past century.

Gary P. Jones, Captain [retired]
Fort Lauderdale Police Department (1967-1993)

author of book:
Badge 149 - "Shots Fired!"

more here: closed as dozens of officers searched for the armed gunman over snowy and rugged terrain.who was gunned down after she had set a roadblock to stop

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