TACOMA — Top federal officials, fellow park rangers and thousands of well-wishers have gathered in Washington state to celebrate the life of Margaret Anderson, a Mount Rainier National Park ranger who was fatally shot on New Year’s Day.
A funeral procession of law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency service vehicles arrived at Pacific Lutheran University this morning.
Later, hundreds of rangers, police officers and others stood at attention and saluted, as Anderson’s family and friends followed her flag-draped casket into the auditorium. An overflow venue has been set up at Rainier View Christian Church in Tacoma.
Anderson, a 34-year-old mother of two young girls, was shot and killed after setting up a roadblock to stop a vehicle that blew through a checkpoint on the road to the park’s visitor center. The driver of that vehicle shot Anderson in her car and ran away, authorities said.
Searchers found the body of the suspect, 24-year-old Iraq war veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes, in a snowy creek. An autopsy showed he died of hypothermia and drowning.
‘’You don’t think of this kind of this situation going into a national park,” said Grant Smith, operations director for Explorer Search and Rescue Pierce County.
Michael Jacobs, a retired park ranger, drove 700 miles from California to show his support for Anderson’s family, colleagues and the community.
“Ranger Anderson joined to help people and to serve,” said Jacobs, a reserve deputy with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department and one of hundreds of law enforcement and other officers who came to honor Anderson. “It was extremely tragic.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis were scheduled to speak, along with ministers.
Anderson had served as a ranger at Mount Rainier south of Seattle for three years. She was married to another ranger, Eric Anderson, who was on duty elsewhere in the park when she was killed.
The daughter of a Lutheran minister, Anderson grew up in New Jersey and earned a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in biology from Fort Hays State University in Kansas, according to media reports.
She began working with the National Park Service as a law enforcement ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, where she met her husband. She also worked as a law enforcement park ranger at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Maryland.