close
close

Gunman killed by rangers in Yellowstone National Park had planned mass shooting for July 4, park reveals

Gunman killed by rangers in Yellowstone National Park had planned mass shooting for July 4, park reveals

Yellowstone National Park officials say a gunman killed by park rangers when he fired a semi-automatic rifle at the entrance to a dining establishment with 200 people inside told a woman he planned to carry out a mass shooting

CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A Yellowstone National Park woman’s warning came just after midnight on July 4: She had just been robbed at gunpoint by a man who said he was planning a mass shooting — a random attack that is common in the U.S. these days, but not in the Yellowstone region and certainly not in the park itself.

Rangers spent the next few hours trying to find the shooter until he showed up outside a dining area of ​​200 people, firing a volley of bullets from a semi-automatic rifle into a service entrance.

The rangers – including one who was injured – fired back. Their bullets struck the attacker, Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner, 28, of Milton, Florida, who died at the scene in the busy tourist area of ​​Canyon Village near the scenic Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

The previously unreleased details released by park officials on Tuesday revealed a harrowing situation that apparently could have ended badly and raised new questions about the attacker’s intentions and motives.

Fussner’s Facebook page at least said he was proud to have landed a concessions job in Yellowstone, a typically seasonal job that often requires him to cook and serve food to the park’s 3 million summer visitors. Such jobs are usually given to slightly younger people in their early 20s; often they are college students who come to the U.S. from various other countries.

Fussner posted a photo of his Xanterra Parks and Resorts badge and photos of him in snowy Yellowstone landscapes from mid-May, at the start of the summer season. There are no posts suggesting anger or any other motive for the shooting.

And while Yellowstone often makes headlines for sometimes fatal accidents involving wildlife and the park’s famous hot springs, shootings are extremely rare – despite the park’s millions of visitors and the region’s high gun ownership rate. There hasn’t been an attack like this one in the park in recent memory.

The injured ranger was released from the hospital, but his identity has not been determined. Because of the shooting, authorities cordoned off the Canyon Lodge, a complex of hotel rooms, cabins and dining facilities, until Wednesday.

The facilities are operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the primary concessionaire for such facilities in Yellowstone.

Shortly after midnight on July 4, law enforcement officials learned that Fussner had held a woman against her will with a gun at a residence in Canyon Village, a hotel and restaurant. The woman said Fussner had threatened to kill her and others, including a mass shooting at Independence Day events outside the park, park officials said in a statement Tuesday.

Rangers found Fussner’s vehicle, but not him. More than 20 law enforcement officers, including a park special operations team, searched for Fussner and organized protection for park visitors and employees.

At about 8 a.m. Thursday morning, police officers encountered Fussner as he approached a staff entrance to the Canyon Lodge dining room and fired shots. Several of the rangers shot at him, and he died at the scene, the statement said.

No further injuries were reported.

“Thanks to the heroic efforts of our rangers, many lives were saved here last Thursday,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in the statement.

The FBI investigated. According to National Park Service policy, rangers involved in a shooting are placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, the statement said.

When asked whether Yellowstone Police rangers had been placed on leave and how many weapons Fussner owned, there was no immediate comment from the park administration.