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Yellowstone gunman threatened mass shooting on July 4, authorities say

A man who fired a semi-automatic rifle at a Yellowstone National Park dining hall 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 shared details about the shooting at the park, which involved more than 20 rangers, killing the man with the rifle and wounding a 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 company that operates lodges in Yellowstone.

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

The FBI is handling 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 review the investigation at a later date.

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

An unidentified woman called Yellowstone 911 shortly after midnight on July 4. She told authorities that she had been held against her will by a gunman at a Canyon Village residence, according to the news release.

According to the release, law enforcement rangers found his unoccupied vehicle in the Canyon area. 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 dispatch center also notified surrounding areas of the threat.

Rangers encountered Fussner around 8 a.m. near Canyon Lodge, which houses dining facilities for employees and the public. Fussner was walking toward the facility’s service entrance while firing a semi-automatic rifle, according to the news release. About 200 people were inside the building.

Fussner was shot and killed by law enforcement officers during a shootout. One law enforcement officer was shot in the lower extremity and was recently released from an area hospital, the statement said. No other physical injuries were reported.

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

Shootings in national parks are not very common. However, a 19-year-old man was shot and critically wounded on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina on May 29, according to the NPS website. A National Parks database breaks down the number and types of deaths that occur in the parks. The mortality dashboard, which looks at deaths from 2014 to 2019, counts just two “legal intervention” deaths and 25 homicides during that period.

According to the Park Service, gun laws in national parks comply with the laws of the states where 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 on National Park Service property. These buildings include government offices, visitor centers, ranger stations, fee collection buildings, and maintenance facilities.

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