Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Grieving the loss of a cop and mother – a shattered beginning to 2012

Post by Brian O'Neill on Jan. 2, 2012 at 9:58 am with 9 Comments »
January 2, 2012 10:19 am

Never did I think it would come this quickly.

When writing the last column of 2011, wherein I juxtaposed the nationwide decline in crime versus the sharp increase in violent cop-killing, I never would have imagined that one of the first headlines of the new year would read: “Mount Rainier ranger slain; killer escapes into woods”.

Ranger Margaret Anderson/ TNT photo by Joe Barrentine

National Park Service Ranger Margaret Anderson, a federal law enforcement officer working at Mount Rainier National Park, was gunned down New Year’s Day by a subject already sought in an earlier shooting that left four people hospitalized in South King County. That information was unknown to Anderson who came into the killer’s gunsights while conducting a traffic stop. In an ironic twist, her enforcement was based on the duty to protect her killer from the danger that the snow and ice-covered road near Paradise presented to a vehicle without the required tire chains.

Much will be said in the coming days about this tragedy. There will be second-guessing of the communication network that perhaps could have warned Anderson and her colleagues about the potential threat from this vehicle. There will be discussions about the tactics used during this fatal traffic stop. There will be station house whispers of the bad omen suggested by the homicide of a law enforcement officer on the first day of the new year.

That can wait. First, there is the duty to public safety: the extremely dangerous job of catching a killer wandering the icy reaches of the Cascades with an arsenal of weapons, a suicidal rage and no chance of escape. Second, there is the duty to the fallen: to honor Ranger Anderson and provide comfort to her grieving family.

Only when these duties are complete should we begin to wonder how it could be that, on the first day of 2012, the first law enforcement officer killed in 2012 called Pierce County her home.


Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. revdrclh says:

    Brian, thank you for a knowing and forthright presentation of the issue. Too many people forget that law enforcement personnel are, first of all, people; sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Ranger Anderson (and her family) deserved better from her society. It’s too late to give her the support she needed, it’s not too late to support other officers.

  2. Earth_watch says:

    Very sad situation… but this same suspect allegedly shot four other people earlier this same holiday weekend, so why is the TNT only talking about this one? Why is this one life seemingly being more revered than others?

  3. Brian O'Neill says:

    Simple answer, EW.

    The four people allegedly shot by Barnes earlier in the day were wounded, two critically. Also, the shootings occurred in Renton, and the Trib does not have the staffing to send reporters directly to scenes outside the paper’s normal circulation area.

    In short, the only fatality allegedly due to Barnes’ violent rampage was Ranger Anderson.

  4. BlaineCGarver says:

    I find it hard to believe that an APB, or whatever they are called, could not have found this guy.

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    Sadly, it would seem that a failure to “talk” and pass on info led to another death.

  6. Brian O'Neill says:

    I disagree, Blaine. It’s just not that simple.

    Did the Sheriff’s Office have solid probable cause on Barnes? If so, when? Did they have a vehicle description and/or other pertinent info that would be worth interrupting police radio communications throughout the state?

    Unless I had answers to these questions, I would hold only one person responsible for the ranger’s death: Barnes.

  7. BlaineCGarver says:

    Brian, if he was being looked for, why wasn’t there an APB, or whatever you call them these days? You are correct, only Barnes pulled the trigger. Also, was the Ranger armed? I heard no. Is that a good idea to make a stop like that unarmed? I certainly don’t know policy vis-a-vis traffic stop protocal.

  8. Brian O'Neill says:

    There is no “APB” as such, though there is the rare “BOLO” (be on the lookout) type of radio communication for neighboring agencies. The idea that federal rangers at Mt Rainier would be notified of a shooting in Renton that occurred a few hours prior is extremely unlikely. There is enough violence in our own backyards without having our activities constantly interrupted by reports of violence everywhere else. Obviously, in hindsight, this would have been welcome info at Mt Rainier, but hindsight is 20/20.

    And yes, the ranger was armed. The National Park Service has rangers who are law enforcement officers (who attend the federal police academy in Georgia) as well as rangers that have education and conservation duties.

  9. BlaineCGarver says:

    I guess it’s natural to try to “fix” things when they go wrong….Sad day, indeed.

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