By the time Benjamin Barnes, 24, fled into the woods in Mount Rainier National Park, suspected of the ambush-style slaying of a park ranger, friends say his life already had collapsed around him, reports the Seattle Times. Records show he’d struggled in high school and had been kicked out of his beloved Army — a loss that fed an obsession with guns, according to an acquaintance. He lost his girlfriend to his erratic, threatening behavior and a close Army friend to suicide. He was under court order to be supervised when he visited his infant daughter.
Early Sunday morning, his role in a gunfight that left four people wounded at a home sent him running for the mountains, the place a friend says he felt most at home. Park Ranger Margaret Anderson did not know his recent background as she set up a roadblock to intercept Barnes’ car. Barnes stopped, according to witnesses, and then stepped out of the car and shot the 34-year-old mother of two girls, ages 3 and 1. The newspaper reports on Barnes’ recent life in detail. Chris Smith, a friend, said he had heard through friends that Barnes had become obsessed with guns after leaving the military. “Everything was guns and shooting and stuff like that,” Smith said. Barnes was found dead of exposure after the weekend incident.