Yellowstone Gunman Was Firing Semiautomatic Weapon Toward Dining Area

The Yellowstone contract employee killed during a Fourth of July shootout with rangers had been firing a semiautomatic weapon, authorities said Tuesday. He had been firing it toward a dining area when confronted by rangers.

Clair McFarland

July 09, 20244 min read

Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner
Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner (Facebook)

The Yellowstone National Park contract worker who was killed in a shootout after taking a hostage on the Fourth of July had shot toward a dining facility in Canyon Village, an east-central tourist hub in the park, authorities say.

The worker, Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner, 28, of Florida, died after the shootout with park rangers.

Just after midnight Thursday, Yellowstone’s 911 dispatch center received a report that a woman had been held against her will by a man with a gun in a residence in Canyon Village, according to a statement YNP authorities dispatched Tuesday afternoon.

She told rangers that Fussner had threatened to kill her and others, and had plans to carry out one or more mass shootings at Fourth of July events outside the park, the statement says.

Rangers responded and found Fussner’s vehicle unoccupied in the Canyon Village area.

The preliminary investigation indicated Fussner was likely armed and dangerous, according to the National Park statement.

Rangers deployed strategically to protected areas with park visitors and employees while searching for Fussner, and the park’s dispatch center notified surrounding jurisdictions, the statement says.

It goes on to report that as early morning arrived, more than 20 National Park Service ranger including the park’s special response team were working “to protect people and locate Fussner.”

The Shootout

At about 8 a.m., law enforcement rangers posted near Canyon Lodge, which houses employee and public dining rooms, encountered Fussner.

Fussner reportedly walked toward the service entrance of the facility while firing a semiautomatic rifle.

About 200 people were inside the building at that time, says the statement.

Several rangers engaged Fussner, with multiple rangers shooting him during an exchange of gunfire.

One ranger was shot in a “lower extremity,” says the statement.

Other rangers rendered medical aid to both the injured ranger and Fussner, but Fussner died at the scene.

The injured ranger was taken to care and stabilized, and has since been released, the National Park Service said.

No one other injuries have been reported.

The statement confirms what Cowboy State Daily reported Saturday: Fussner was an employee of Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a private business providing contract services in Yellowstone.

The FBI, NPS, Xanterra and other partners are providing victim and witness support to anyone involved, says the statement.

  • Yellowstone law enforcement on Thursday, July 4, 2024
    Yellowstone law enforcement on Thursday, July 4, 2024 (Courtesy: NPS Ranger News)
  • Yellowstone law enforcement on Thursday, July 4, 2024
    Yellowstone law enforcement on Thursday, July 4, 2024 (Courtesy, NPS Ranger News)
  • Yellowstone law enforcement on Thursday, July 4, 2024
    Yellowstone law enforcement on Thursday, July 4, 2024 (Courtesy: NPS Ranger News)

Body Cam Footage On The Way

NPS policy for a law enforcement-involved shooting calls for involved law enforcement rangers to be placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation of the incident.

Consistent with Department of the Interior and NPS policies, the NPS will release available body worn camera footage of the incident within 30 days, the statement adds.

"Thanks to the heroic actions of our law enforcement rangers, many lives were saved here last Thursday," said Superintendent Cam Sholly in the release. "These rangers immediately confronted this shooter and took decisive action to ensure he was no longer a threat to public safety.

"We are working now to provide maximum support to those involved and their families. We appreciate the support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, and many other partners as we continue to manage through the aftermath of this incident." 

Employer's Condolences

Xanterra issued a statement Tuesday saying the company is deeply saddened by the incident and extends its heartfelt condolences to those impacted. The company is continuing to cooperate with the NPS and FBI, its statement says.

"The safety and well-being of our employees, guests, and the wider community are our top priorities, and we are committed to ensuring a safe environment for everyone," says the statement "We want to again thank the NPS law enforcement rangers for their incredible actions in resolving the situation."

Xanterra said it's providing counseling and support services to its Yellowstone employees along with NPS and is working diligently to bring all its facilities back to regular operations in the Canyon Lodge area.

"We thank our Xanterra employees who are working through these difficult issues and are serving our guests and our company in such a dedicated manner," says the statement. "Similarly, we thank all our guests for their kindness, patience, and understanding regarding their interactions with our employees as we continue to work through these events, and their travel disruptions."

The statement says a limited quantity of select rooms and most visitor services opened at Canyon Lodge on Tuesday. All remaining lodging (including the Western cabins, and the two of seven guest lodges) are scheduled to reopen Wednesday.

Food service at the Eatery and the M66 Loung both reopened Tuesday evening. Food service will return to normal hours beginning Wednesday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Regularly scheduled tours resumed from Canyon Lodge Tuesday.

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter