Yellowstone shooter threatened mass shooting on July 4, officials say

Yellowstone shooter threatened mass shooting on July 4, officials say
Yellowstone shooter threatened mass shooting on July 4, officials say

A man who fired a semi-automatic rifle into a dining hall in Yellowstone National Park on July 4 said he had plans to carry out mass shootings at events outside the park, according to a woman who told police he threatened to kill her.

The National Park Service on Tuesday released details of a shooting in the park that involved more than 20 rangers and left the man with the rifle dead and a police officer injured.

A Park County, Wyoming, coroner identified the shooter as Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner, 28, of Milton, Florida. He was an employee of Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a private company that operates lodges in Yellowstone.

“Many lives were saved here last Thursday,” park ranger Cam Sholly said in a statement. “We are now working to provide maximum support to those affected and their families.”

The FBI is leading the investigation into the shooting, including the actions of National Park Service rangers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming will later review the investigation.

β€œThe incident remains under investigation and we cannot provide any additional information at this time,” said Yellowstone representative Linda Veress.

An unidentified woman called Yellowstone’s emergency dispatch center shortly after midnight on July 4. She told authorities she was being held against her will by an armed man in a residence in Canyon Village, the news release said.

According to the press release, law enforcement officers found his vehicle unoccupied in the canyon area. Rangers believed Fussner was likely armed and dangerous and sent rangers, including the park’s special operations team, throughout the park to monitor areas with park visitors and employees and search for Fussner. The park’s emergency dispatch center also notified surrounding areas of the threat.

Rangers encountered Fussner around 8 a.m. near Canyon Lodge, where staff and public dining facilities are located. Fussner walked toward the facility’s staff entrance and fired a semi-automatic rifle, the news release said. About 200 people were in the building.

Fussner was shot and killed by police officers during a shootout. One police officer suffered a gunshot wound to the lower extremity and was recently released from an area hospital, the news release said. No other physical injuries were reported.

According to NPS policy, police officers involved in a shooting incident are placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation into the incident.

Shootings in national parks are not very common. However, according to the NPS website, a 19-year-old man was shot and seriously injured on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina on May 29. A national park database breaks down the number and type of deaths that occur in the parks. The Mortality Dashboard, which tracks deaths from 2014 to 2019, counts just two deaths from “legal intervention” and 25 homicides during that time period.

According to the Park Service, gun laws in national parks are consistent with the laws of the states in which the parks are located. Everytown Research & Policy ranks Wyoming’s gun laws as some of the least restrictive in the country; assault weapons are not banned in the state.

Federal law prohibits the possession of firearms and other dangerous weapons in NPS facilities, which include government offices, visitor centers, ranger stations, fee-collection buildings, and maintenance facilities.