Yellowstone shooter threatened mass shooting on July 4, officials say

A man who fired a semi-automatic rifle into a Yellowstone National Park dining hall on July 4 said he was planning a mass shooting 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 at the park that involved more than 20 park rangers, killing the man with the gun and wounding a police officer.

A Park County, Wyo., coroner identified the shooter as Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner, 28, of Milton, Fla., 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 involved and their families.”

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

“The incident is still under investigation and we have no additional information to provide at this time,” said Yellowstone representative Linda Veress.

An unidentified woman called Yellowstone 911 just after midnight on July 4, telling police she was being held against her will by a man with a gun in a Canyon Village home, the news release said.

According to the press release, law enforcement officers found his vehicle unoccupied in the Canyon area. Park rangers believed Fussner was likely armed and dangerous and sent rangers, including the park’s Special Response Team, throughout the park to monitor areas with park visitors and employees and search for Fussner. The park’s 911 dispatcher also alerted surrounding areas to the threat.

Rangers encountered Fussner around 8 a.m. near Canyon Lodge, which houses dining rooms for employees and the public. Fussner walked toward the facility’s service entrance while firing a semi-automatic rifle, the news release said. There were about 200 people in the building.

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

In accordance with NPS policy, law enforcement officers involved in a shooting incident are placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation of the incident.

Shootings in national parks are rare. However, according to the NPS website, a 19-year-old man was shot and critically wounded on May 29 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. A National Parks database tracks the number and types of deaths in the parks. The fatality dashboard, which tracks deaths from 2014 to 2019, counts only two “legal intervention” deaths and 25 homicides during that time.

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

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

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