Former Iraq Veteran Allegedly Kills Seattle Park Ranger After Police Chase

Benjamin Colton Barnes poses with guns

A former Iraq war veteran with connection to the killing of a local park ranger was reportedly found dead at Mount Rainier National Park on Monday after fleeing from local law enforcement.

At 10:20 a.m. Sunday, Benjamin Colton Barnes, former Iraq War Veteran, allegedly shot and killed Mount Rainier national Park Ranger Marget Anderson, 34-year-old mother of two, before she was even able to step out of her vehicle. Anderson was attempting to block Barnes’ car as he fled from local authorities.

This unfortunate turn of events happened after Barnes was allegedly involved in an argument New Year’s at a house party in Skyway, not too far from Seattle. Shortly after the dispute police reported that gunfire resulted from the argument according to Sgt. Cindi West, King County Sheriff’s spokeswoman.

This exchange of gunfire led Barnes to flee the scene, ensuing a police chase.

Barnes sped past a checkpoint that was supposed to check for tire chains, a must-have for inclement conditions in that area.

After speeding past the checkpoint, one ranger followed Barnes while Anderson attempted to block the road.

Authorities think Barnes sought asylum in the park after shooting and injuring four near Seattle and subsequently killing Anderson. The cause of Barnes’ death is still unknown, but after trudging through waist high snow, he probably died from the conditions. Even though Barnes trained to be a survivalist in the military, few are equipped to deal with the extreme conditions of the Pacific Northwest without proper preparation.

Margaret Anderson

According to Barnes’ ex-girlfriend, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People have also accused Barnes of being suicidal. Barnes and his daughter’s mother have had their share of problems. She went to court for a temporary restraining order against Barnes as she feared for her daughter’s safety.

The restraining order, refusal to be helped professionally and stress probably pushed Barnes over the edge.

In a article published in PTSD Research Quarterly, researchers found that family problems, lack of schooling, low-level military rankings and longer deployment times can lead to PTSD. Add the additional factors of being shot at, seeing dead bodies, being ambushed, and knowing someone who was killed or severely injured, soldiers go through a tough transition when returning to civilization.

PTSD is a serious problem in America. The numbers have sky-rocketed in the past decade. In 1999, 120,000 veterans were diagnosed with the disorder. In 2008, that number rose to 345,000.

The federal government is currently being sued by multiple Vietnam veteran organizations for allegedly classifying PTSD as a personality disorder in order to cut costs. This comes at a time when the Pentagon is seriously looking into curing PTSD with a simple injection or pill. They hope the new pill will remove soldiers’ ability to perceive fear. The implications are unreal…

Suicide is another concern for our soldiers when they return home. At Seattle’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, soldier suicide rates have increased the past three years. In 2011, 12 soldiers killed themselves at the base. This is no anomaly. US soldier suicides exceed combat fatalities.

I covered military families at Fort Campbell while studying journalism at Oklahoma University last year. What these families and soldiers have to go through is inspiring. Many of these families are resilient and come out on top. But a lot of these families and soldiers need help. Who knows what these soldiers are pressured to do when in these war situations. We as Americans really need to start reevaluating the cost of war. Because nothing in this life is free. So before we judge Barnes, I want everyone reading this to really look at his situation. I’m not making excuses for this guy, but I’m looking at the larger picture. I can’t imagine what the families of Anderson and Barnes are going through. Hopefully, they’ll find some semblance of peace.

God bless America, torn and tattered through the years for she’s never known a time of peace.

*Some of my thoughts in audio form can be heard in this video. I’m going to try to do this more often as to add a different perspective to the story:

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