MOUNT RAINIER -- It`s been three years since Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed on Mt. Rainier. Pierce County SWAT was quick to respond to the call that day and recently went back to the mountain for training -- all because of what they didn`t know three years ago. Washington's Most Wanted's Parella Lewis was there when the SWAT team hit the snow. “We came to this point right here and there was a tent that was picking up a heat source that the plane identified up above. And not having ever been up here to walk around, it would make sense if you didn’t have any experience to walk straight across because that’s where the tent was,” remarks Pierce County SWAT Sgt. John Delgado. The last time he was on Mt. Rainier, he and his team were tracking a killer in conditions they weren’t used too. Delgado continues, “We have to train in all different types of environments; schools, movie theatres, houses. But one thing we’ve neglected is this big mountain that’s in our back yard and we figured that out January 1st, 2012 when Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was murdered up here and then we’re tracking down a murder suspect. All of us, that was our first time wearing snow shoes.”
They found her killer, Benjamin Barnes dead from exposure, hard evidence of how dangerous the mountain can be during winter. So today, the S.W.A.T. team is back stepping out to learn from local Park Rangers like Jeff Gardner. “If it comes down to it, it’s probably best to drop too much. Realize that you don’t overheat and be like great,” Jeffrey Gardner, U.S. Park Ranger explains during the trek up the mountain. He continues, “If you’re wet and cold is what’s going to cause hypothermia” Snow shoeing is one thing, but having to do it in changing conditions and employing SWAT tactics takes a lot of training. Training that involves things like how to read the terrain, and how to perform the basics when Mother Nature turns against you. Gardner reminds the team, “We’re going to land navigation in whiteout conditions, you see the clouds are starting to come in.” The lessons they learn today will change the way this team responds to calls in the cold. Delgado adds, “There’s a bunch of little things, and then there are some big things. It’s going to make us a better team and maybe change the way, change some of our equipment.” And although they hope to never have to return for an emergency, they’re taking notes and making new friends just in case. “We’re also building better relationships with our federal law enforcement partners. They’re providing us some training, we’ll provide them some training so it will be familiar faces if we ever end up back out here,” Delgado continued. The team plans to head back up to the mountain a few more times this winter to continue their training.