Gunman threatens mass shooting

Authorities say Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner, 28, held a woman against her will and threatened to carry out a mass shooting outside Yellowstone National Park.

The man who was fatally shot after a gunfight with Yellowstone National Park rangers last week had held a woman against her will and threatened to carry out a mass shooting outside the park, authorities said.

The suspect was identified Monday as Samson Lucas Bariah Fussner, 28, of Milton, Florida, according to the Park County Sheriff's Office. Fussner died after an exchange of gunfire with park rangers, the National Park Service said in a news release Tuesday.

Yellowstone’s 911 dispatch center received a call shortly after midnight on July 4 reporting that a woman had been held against her will by an armed man at a residence in the popular Canyon Village neighborhood, which features lodges, cabins and campgrounds, according to the National Park Service. The woman told authorities that “Fussner had threatened to kill her and others, including plans to conduct mass shootings at Fourth of July events outside the park,” the agency added.

Yellowstone National Park rangers then confronted Fussner, who was firing a semi-automatic rifle toward a Canyon Village restaurant, the National Park Service said. Fussner later died after an “armed altercation with at least one park ranger,” according to the Park County Sheriff’s Office.

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Park County Coroner Cody Gortmaker confirmed to USA TODAY on Tuesday that Fussner's cause of death was gunshot wounds.

The investigation is being led by the FBI and will be reviewed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Wyoming, according to the National Park Service.

“Thanks to the heroic actions of our law enforcement rangers, many lives were saved last Thursday,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement Tuesday. “These rangers immediately confronted the shooter and took decisive action to ensure he no longer posed a threat to public safety. We are working to provide maximum support to those involved and their families.”

The preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect was “probably armed and dangerous”

After the Sept. 11 report, responding park rangers found Fussner's vehicle unoccupied in the Canyon Village area and determined the suspect was “likely armed and dangerous,” according to the National Park Service.

A recording of the BOLO announcement sent by the Yellowstone communications center said the suspect had “threatened suicide to a police officer” and “threatened to shoot a fireworks display somewhere in western Yellowstone or Montana.”

“With the individual at large, law enforcement rangers were strategically deployed to protect areas frequented by park visitors and employees while searching for Fussner, and the park's 911 dispatch center notified surrounding jurisdictions,” the National Park Service said.

The National Park Service said more than 20 rangers, including the park’s Special Response Team, were searching for Fussner and working to protect people starting in the early hours of the morning. Around 8 a.m., rangers stationed near the Canyon Lodge — a building that houses employees and serves as a public dining facility — located Fussner walking toward the service entrance while firing a semiautomatic rifle.

At the time of the incident, the building was occupied by about 200 people, according to the National Park Service. Several rangers then exchanged gunfire with Fussner, who was shot and died at the scene.

The agency identified Fussner as an employee of Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a private company licensed to operate in Yellowstone.

A park ranger was also shot and injured during the incident and taken to an area hospital in stable condition, the National Park Service said. The shooting range has since been cleared and no other injuries have been reported.

In accordance with agency policy, the rangers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is underway. The National Park Service will also release body camera footage of the shooting within 30 days, the agency said.

Contributing by Mary Walrath-Holdridge, USA TODAY; CA Bridges, USA TODAY Network – Florida

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