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CANYON VILLAGE—More than a dozen concession employees at Yellowstone’s Canyon Village recalled Tuesday hearing dozens of shots when law enforcement confronted, shot and killed fellow concession worker Samson Fussner on Thursday.

They told about how they were warned to stay indoors the night before and how the confrontation and shooting happened suddenly the next day. One said he heard eight shots, then a barrage of another 30.

Law enforcement killed Fussner, a 28-year-old Florida resident and concession worker, after Yellowstone officials said he walked toward an occupied building firing a semi-automatic rifle. The killing left workers rattled and uneasy.

The workers interviewed were young, many were foreigners and most asked that their names not be used. All those interviewed said they were offered counseling following the Independence Day incident.


Some knew Fussner, vaguely. The employees are seasonal and only begin working when the complex starts to open in mid-May.

“He was around, he worked,” said one female employee who told her story outside the Canyon Eatery. She did not want to give her name.

“It was never something we considered.”

Yellowstone concession employee Sydney Zulywitz.

Fussner wasn’t necessarily an oddball, she said, but “we didn’t talk to him a lot.”

“They knew there was a guy with a gun,” she said. “The night before they told us we couldn’t go out at night. “The next day, everything happened.

“I heard shots,” she said. “There were a lot, like 30. It scared me.”

Rangers ‘did their job’

The park has since released an account of how authorities learned of Fussner’s threats just after midnight Thursday and searched widely for him. They encountered him only when was seen at about 8 a.m. Thursday advancing toward the service entrance of a facility the Park Service said was occupied by 200 people and which they identified only as Canyon Lodge.

The Canyon Village complex includes a Visitor Education Center, several restaurants, some retail shops and a bear spray rental kiosk. The Canyon Lodge next door has several multi-story hotel buildings and associated cabins.

Employees live in dorms between the Lodge buildings and the retail, food and visitor center complex. The village is named after the nearby Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River that features the river’s iconic Lower Falls.

A Yellowstone ranger carries her vest to a patrol car as a cadre of law enforcement officers decamped Canyon Lodge on July 9, 2024. Numerous investigators gathered to probe the gunfight between concession employee Samson Fussner and rangers on July 4, 2024. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./Pedrodiniz)

Outside the Canyon Eatery on Tuesday, a group of three workers finished their lunch in the shade as they prepared to get back to their jobs, which returned to regular schedules later that day.

They heard gunshots. How many?

“Too many,” one said. “We were just panicking,” she said. “We run.”

A male companion said workers were told to evacuate their dorms.

“They announced it,” he said of a new warning Thursday morning. “All of the guests and employees should go outside for our safety.”

He said he was frightened, “a little bit, because we heard a lot of gunshots.”

The law enforcement rangers, he said, “they did their job.”

It’s going to take some time

Several workers said they didn’t want to talk.

“I don’t want to relive it,” one young man said. Nobody told him to avoid the media, he said.

“It’s just me, personally,” he said of his silence. “Right now a lot of the employees are in the same boat.”

“I’m fine,” another worker said when asked about counseling and her mental health. But she, too, couldn’t talk about the incident.

“I can’t tell you something about that,” she said.

Parts of Yellowstone's Canyon Village remained closed Tuesday following the shooting incident on July 4. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./Pedrodiniz)

Sydney Zulywitz found the event alien to a nature reserve. “It was never something we considered,” she said.

“It happened without warning,” her friend Sydney Rich, another Canyon worker, said.

Zulywitz attended a counseling session offered by the Park Service and concessionaire Xanterra Travel Collection, which employees said lasted about 30 minutes.

Zulywitz said the experience was too raw to recount, begging off of recounting any details. She went to a counseling session, she said.

“I didn’t know I needed it ’til I went and walked to the building,” she said pointing to the Canyon Visitor Education Center where the sessions were offered.

“It was a big, big thing,” Zulywitz said of the traumatic shooting. She, too, couldn’t bring herself to go into details about what she witnessed.

Counseling helped, she said, but recovery, “it’s going to take some time.”

It was his day

A Canyon employee, who said his nickname was Emi, roomed next to Fussner. But, “I didn’t know him.”

He said he and others usually do stretching exercises outside every morning. But that day he did them indoors because of orders.

“That was not good,” he said, suggesting authorities might have done more to evacuate people. The park’s statement Tuesday, however, underscored how law enforcement searched unsuccessfully for Fussner.

Emi said he didn’t feel safe.

“I haven’t seen any improvement these two days,” he said. “More security guys, but that’s it.”

Terrell Hollow lives in a dorm about 70 feet from the incident, he said, but slept in on his day off.

“It was crazy,” he said of the story he heard when he woke.

“Everybody has their days,” he said. “It was his day.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for Pedrodiniz. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@pedrodiniz.com or (307)...

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  1. Another shooting tragedy, but its worst was diverted by NPS rangers who likely never expected such an event. Kudos to the NPS.

  2. The whole Florida Man thing is getting explosively worse by the day. The Florida Man headlines and accompanying jokes were funny when they remained in Florida, but now they're branching out.

  3. THANK YOU RANGERS! Where is all this anger and mental breakdowns that lead to these shootings? Why so many under Democrat presidents admins? Yes the happen under GOP BUT 90% are under democrat administrations!!

    1. Larry you nailed it!!! It’s not rocket science, just common sense, 100 plus shot in Chicago over the independence day, “A place where all guns are illegal “we have a mental problem not a gun problem, it’s easy to blame a tool on something, while we should be putting the blame on the criminals and the liberal district attorneys that turn them lose!

  4. Why was he not in Florida working? What is his record in Florida, is he a US CITIZEN? Were the guns legally purchased?

  5. What do you expect in a country where violence is encouraged when you don't get your way? The pride of gun-ownership and the strongest military in the world is indicative of a country that hasn't matured. We don't care about people, we worship money. What the heck do you expect?

    1. John. You’re wrong on gun ownership. These are not caused by responsible gun owners. We always have had guns. Not even the Wild West had these issues. Wild West is made up by Hollywood. Hundreds of thousands shell shocked battle hardened men came back after WW1/WW2/Korea/VIETNAM we didn’t have this violence. THERE has to be stress from the lack of good jobs/all this downgrading of men and manhood/lack of sexual identity causing this mental stress breakdown. All augmented by recreational drugs. These drugs are much stronger than 60-70’s-80’s. All causing paranoia. Majority of this violence is under democrat presidents as well.

      1. Well, actually Larry, the history of the westward expansion had many violent and even more needlessly violent occurrences that took the lives of countless innocent people. I am not only focusing on the Indian wars of extermination undertaken by the United States Army, but I am also looking at the early Mormon settlers and their conflicts with Missouri citizens and their subsequent violence in Illinois and then again in Utah. There was also a lot of needless violence
        and killing in Kansas during the land grant era, and the expansion of the gold fields of South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, and California. Not to even mention the Civil War! Or the labor wars on the docks of Seattle! Or the Jim Crow lynchings throughout the Midwest and deep south! Our entire history is filled with violence!
        What could make you even think it occurred mostly under Democratic leaders? Is your view of America and its history so myopic?
        A man with a weapon of war and a terrible grudge set upon 200 innocents and your mind wants to blame dems? Get a grip.