Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said late Sunday afternoon Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old believed to have survivalist skills, was a "strong person of interest" in the slaying of Margaret Anderson. A parks spokesman said Barnes was an Iraq war veteran. Authorities recovered his vehicle, which had weapons and body armor inside, Troyer said.
Barnes was also a suspect in the early Sunday morning shooting of four people at a house party in Skway, police said.
Authorities believed the gunman was still in the woods, with weapons. They asked people to stay away from the park, and for those already inside to leave.
"We do have a very hot and dangerous situation," Troyer said.
Tactical responders wearing crampons and snowshoes were pursuing what appeared to be the gunman's tracks in the snow, Troyer said. Those tracks went into creeks and other waterways, making it more difficult for crews to follow.
"He's intentionally trying to get out of the snow," Troyer said.
Kevin Bacher, a spokesman for the park, said about 125 people were still at the visitor's center Sunday night along with five law enforcement officers protecting the facility. He said crews had considered removing them in armored vehicles, but decided not to take any risk.
Meanwhile, an aircraft with heat-sensing capabilities was scanning overhead, Troyer said.
The park would remain closed Monday, officials announced late Sunday.
Jason Simpson, 29, of Kent, said his parents were still trapped at the visitor's center after traveling to the mountain for a day hike. His parents were able to make a call explaining their situation, and Simpson drove to the park entrance to wait.
"It's very distressing," Simpson said.
Sgt. Cindi West, King County Sheriff's spokesperson, said late Sunday that Barnes was connected to an early-morning shooting at a New Year's house party in Skyway, Wash., south of Seattle that left four people injured, two critically.
At Mount Rainier around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, Bacher said the gunman had sped past a checkpoint. One ranger began following him while Anderson eventually blocked the road to stop the driver.
Before fleeing, the gunman fired shots at both Anderson and the ranger that trailed him, but only Anderson was hit, Bacher said.
It was possible that searchers may wait until morning to continue the effort.
"We do not know what resources the shooter has. We're not sure what we're up against," Bacher said. "We know that he has a weapon, but we don't know how many."
About 150 officers, including officials from the Washington State Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and FBI, were on the mountain.
Authorities said earlier that Anderson's body had been removed from the park, but Troyer said police have been unable to get to her because of concern over potentially being in the line of fire.
An FBI SWAT team was working to remove her body from the mountain Sunday night.
'She loved being outside'
Margaret AndersonMeanwhile, Anderson's family said she died doing what she loved.
"She loved people and she loved being outside," Paul Kritsch, Anderson's father, told KOMO News Radio.
Kritsch said Anderson met her husband -- also a park ranger, who was on duty Sunday -- while they were working at Bryce Canyon in southern Utah and searched out a place where they could serve together, and that's what brought them to Mt. Rainier.
They eventually got married and started a family, and had two young daughters, now aged 4 and 2.
"She loved her two little girls, and they're going to miss her," Kritsch said. "(Her husband) is going to do a good job of remembering Margaret but the little girls will have very few memories of her mom any more after a while."
Adam Norton, a neighbor of Anderson's in the small town of Eatonville, Wash., said the ranger's family moved in about a year ago. He said they were not around much, but when they were Norton would see Anderson outside with her girls.
"They just seemed like the perfect family," he said.
The town of about 3,000 residents, which is a logging community overlooking Mount Rainier, is very close knit, he said.
"It's really sad right now," Norton said. "We take care of each other."
Worked with Eatonville Fire Department to improve safety
Anderson was working with the Eatonville Fire Department to improve emergency treatment on the mountain and her husband was slated to start as a volunteer firefighters next week, said fire chief Dexter Habeck.
"She recognized there was an issue with how people were getting emergency medical service in the park in a timely manner," Habeck said. "She's just one of those people trying to do her part to be a part of the community and help the community."
Kritsch said their faith is sustaining them right now.
"And we hope and pray they capture the guy who did this and bring them to justice," he said.
It has been legal for people to take loaded firearms into Mount Rainier since 2010, when a controversial federal law went into effect that made possession of firearms in national parks subject to state gun laws.
The shooting occurred on an unseasonably sunny and mild day. The park, which offers miles of wooded trails and spectacular vistas from which to see 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, draws between 1.5 million and 2 million visitors each year.
The Longmire station served as headquarters when the national park was established in 1899. Park headquarters have moved but the site still contains a museum, a hotel, restaurant and gift shop, which are open year-round.
A profile shot and photos of tatoos of Benjamin Colton Barnes