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Ranger shot and killed at Mount Ranier


This news story was published on January 2, 2012.
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SEATTLE — A 34-year-old park ranger was shot to death Sunday morning in Mount Rainier National Park after a routine traffic stop led to a car chase. The gunman remained at large Sunday evening.

Park Ranger Margaret Anderson, a mother of two who was married to another park ranger, was shot around 10:30 a.m. after setting up a roadblock to stop the fleeing gunman.

The gunman escaped on foot and was carrying a long rifle. Authorities said it took 90 minutes for backup to reach Anderson because the assailant continued shooting at law enforcement officers as they arrived.

Eighty-six park visitors and about 20 employees remained at the Jackson Visitors Center at Paradise in early evening. Other visitors below at Longmire had been allowed to leave.

“It’s really not safe right now,” said park spokeswoman Lee Taylor. “We’ve got a guy on the loose with a gun and he’s obviously willing to use it.”

The killing appears to be related to an early morning shooting in Skyway in which a man and woman were critically injured and two other men wounded during a house party, said Cindi West, spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff’s Department.

The incident in the park started around 10:15 a.m., Taylor said, when rangers attempted to pull over a vehicle on the road just above Longmire. The car kept going.

When officers radioed that the driver did not stop, Anderson, in another vehicle, set up a roadblock by pulling her car across the road a mile or so south of Paradise at a pull out known as Barns Flat.

“He just jumped out and shot her,” Taylor said.

A maintenance worker and his colleague had been driving up the road toward Paradise when they heard on the park’s radio system that rangers were chasing what appeared to be a blue Pontiac the same direction. They pulled over and let the car and law-enforcement officer pass them, the worker said.

“As soon as they went by, we pulled out and started to follow,” said Steve Young, who was in the passenger seat. “At that point we heard they had an officer who was coming down who was going to try and stop the vehicle from above.”

Young said the ranger’s vehicle was around a corner about 100 yards ahead of them, when he heard at least five shots. Suddenly, the ranger’s vehicle he’d been following started backing down.

“His windows were shot out and he started backing down the road,” Young said by phone from Longmire.

Lisa Pyle, from Auburn, said she and her husband Derek Pyle were on their way up because their daughter had been camping at Paradise, but a ranger turned them away. They saw a ranger’s car near the visitors center with three bullet holes through the windshield. Their daughter and other guests were locked down inside the park.

“We have a ton of police here,” said a volunteer Park Service guide in Longmire. “They’re everywhere. A lot of people are camping in the backcountry. What happened here happened pretty quickly.”

In Skyway, King County sheriff’s deputies received a 911 call reporting the shooting around 3 a.m., according to West.

Deputies arrived at the home and found that three men and a woman had been shot. All four were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Witnesses told the deputies that a man had been at a party at the home earlier in the evening and was asked to leave after an argument. The man returned, and began firing a gun at people in the home.

At least one person at the party appeared to have returned fire, West said.

Children were in the home at the time but none were injured, West said. West said all of the victims were in the 20s, and the victims knew the shooter.

Mount Rainier has never had an officer shot and killed in the line of duty, said Lee Snook, a public information officer with the Park Service.

Anderson and her husband, Eric Anderson, both worked at Rainier for about four years. Their two children were described by federal authorities as ages 4 and 1.

Margaret Anderson’s mother-in-law, said the oldest, Anna, was born on Feb. 14, 2008, making her 3. The youngest, Katie, will turn 2 in May.

Eric Anderson has been left “devastated” by his wife’s slaying, said Cynthia Anderson in the telephone interview.

The couple, who lived in Eatonville, met when both worked as park rangers at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, Anderson said, her voice choking with emotion.

They then moved to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where they worked nearby in different parks, Anderson said.

The couple became engaged in December 2004, according to a wedding announcement in The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains – Fanwood Times of New Jersey.

About four years ago, they got the opportunity to work in the same park at Mount Rainier, Anderson said.

“That is why they decided to go out there,” Anderson said. “It’s beautiful out there.”

Their dream was to work together and raise a family, Anderson said.

“They’re both very outdoorsy,” Anderson said. “And very religious, too,” Anderson said, explaining that both are Lutherans and that Margaret Anderson is the daughter of a Lutheran minister.

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