Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Yellowstone gunman allegedly threatened mass shooting on July 4

An Independence Day shootout ended with a gunman dead and a ranger wounded at Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park.  (Dreamstime)
By Jiselle Lee Washington Post

A man who fired a semiautomatic rifle at a Yellowstone National Park dining hall on the Fourth of July said he had plans to carry out 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 shared details about the shootout at the park, which involved more than 20 rangers, killing the man with the rifle and injuring one law enforcement officer.

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 business that operates lodges in Yellowstone.

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

The FBI is leading the investigation of the shooting, including the actions of the National Park Service law enforcement rangers. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Wyoming will later review the investigation.

“The incident remains under investigation, and we do not have additional information to provide at this time,” Yellowstone representative Linda Veress said.

An unidentified woman called Yellowstone’s 911 dispatch just after midnight on July 4. She told law enforcement she had been held against her will by a man with a gun in a residence at Canyon Village, according to the news release.

Law enforcement rangers located his vehicle unoccupied in the Canyon area, according to the release. Rangers believed Fussner was probably armed and dangerous and sent rangers, including the park’s special response team, across the park to monitor areas with park visitors and employees and to look for Fussner. The park’s 911 dispatch center also notified surrounding areas about the threat.

Rangers came across Fussner about 8 a.m. near Canyon Lodge, which houses employee and public dining rooms. Fussner was walking to the service entrance of the facility while firing a semiautomatic rifle, according to the news release. About 200 people were inside the building.

Fussner was shot and killed by law enforcement rangers during a gunfight. One law enforcement ranger was shot in a lower extremity and was recently released from a hospital in the area, according to the release. No other physical injuries were reported.

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

Shootings at national parks are not common, but a 19-year-old man was shot and critically injured at Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina on May 29, according to the NPS website.

A National Parks database breaks down the number of and types of deaths that occur at the parks. The mortality dashboard, which surveys deaths from 2014 to 2019, counts only two deaths from “legal intervention” and 25 homicides over that span.

According to the Park Service, gun laws in national parks comply with the laws of the states where parks are located. Everytown Research & Policy ranks the gun laws in Wyoming as some of the least restrictive in the country; the state does not prohibit assault weapons.

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