The National Park Service today released the recommendations made by a board of review the investigated the circumstances surrounding the murder of law enforcement ranger Margaret Anderson on Jan. 1.
Among the board’s findings was that Benjamin Barnes came to Mount Rainier National Park well-armed and prepared to harm people.
The board also praised “the well-executed response” by park staff, volunteers and partner agencies to the shooting and identified some lessons learned that might help prepare law enforcement staff for similar incidents in the future.
Anderson, 34, was fatally shot in the line of duty on the road to Paradise as she and another ranger were attempting to intercept a vehicle that fled through a mandatory chain-up checkpoint. Stopped by Anderson just below Paradise, the driver of the vehicle, Barnes, opened fire on both rangers, killing Anderson. Barnes then escaped on foot into the woods. After an extensive manhunt by multiple agencies, Barnes’ body was found the next day in Paradise River. He drowned while suffering from hypothermia.
“The courageous and decisive actions of the rangers prevented Benjamin Barnes from reaching the crowded Paradise area of the park and likely saved the lives of many park visitors and staff,” Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz said in a prepared statement.
“We still couldn’t have prevented this dangerous, disturbed and determined man from killing Ranger Anderson even if all of the recommendations that the Board has made had been in place. Her murder is a tragic reminder of the risk all law enforcement officers face every day. It is our obligation to learn from this horrific incident and use that knowledge to increase the safety of our employees and park visitors,” she added.
The board of review met in mid-May to examine what happened and identify any lessons that could be learned to enhance protection of park employees and the public. The board included law enforcement experts from around the country, both within and external to the National Park Service.
Among its actions, the board reviewed the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s draft report, visited the site where the shooting occurred and interviewed people who were involved in the incident.
In its report, the board also 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. After a review of the board’s recommendations, the following recommendations are being implemented at the park immediately:
— Update park law enforcement standard operating procedures including those for critical incident management, use of force, and communicating during crises
— Ensure all law enforcement patrol vehicles are properly marked according to Park Service standards
— Conduct training on critical incident response and critical incident stress management
— Pursue the development of Memorandums of Understanding with local cooperating law enforcement agencies
Some recommendations, such as evaluating the need for additional specialized training and updates to service-wide policy, have been referred to National Park Service Headquarters for consideration.
Anderson is survived by her husband, Eric, also a law enforcement ranger at the time of the shooting, and two young daughters.