Fourth of July in Yellowstone marred by deadly shooting

By Kate Ready Jackson Hole News&Guide Via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 7/10/24

JACKSON — Little information is available about a deadly shooting in Yellowstone National Park that killed an alleged shooter and injured a park ranger on Independence Day.

While …

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Fourth of July in Yellowstone marred by deadly shooting


JACKSON — Little information is available about a deadly shooting in Yellowstone National Park that killed an alleged shooter and injured a park ranger on Independence Day.

While Yellowstone issued a press release about the incident Thursday, officials have not responded to inquiries or answered additional questions, citing an active investigation.

The FBI is investigating the incident, with support from Yellowstone, and also declined to comment.

Meanwhile, family members of employees who were in Canyon Village have said on social media, and in an interview with the Jackson Hole Daily, that the suspect worked for a park concessionaire. The Daily was not able to confirm the suspect’s employer by press time Thursday.

Family members also have raised questions about the response to alleged complaints about the suspected shooter, as well as how the incident was handled and the safety of employee housing in Canyon.

In a statement, the National Park Service said the incident began overnight in the Canyon Lodge complex, operated by Xanterra Travel Collection, when rangers responded to a report of an armed person making threats.

When rangers contacted the person, there was an “exchange of gunfire.”

At 9:36 a.m. Thursday, the Fourth of July, Texas resident Channing Bartee’s daughter called her 11 times, before sending a chilling text: “emergency pick up pick up Mom.” Bartee, 41, picked up. Her daughter said that she heard multiple gunshots “right outside her dorm window” and saw a park ranger shot in the leg.

Bartee relayed her daughter’s experience to the Daily. Her daughter didn’t want to speak with a reporter or be named publicly for fear of retribution from her employer.

The person with the gun died, officials said in a press release. One Yellowstone law enforcement ranger was injured and is in stable condition. That ranger is being treated at a nearby hospital.

The Canyon Lodge complex remains closed for the investigation.

Yellowstone has declined to release the identity of the suspected shooter.

Bartee’s daughter told her that female employees had reported the suspect to management several times, stating that he made them feel uncomfortable. Bartee also said the door to her daughter’s dorm didn’t lock while the shootout occurred. Worried for her safety, Bartee’s daughter ran with a friend down the hallway into another room, where they locked and barricaded the door with a mattress.

Bartee’s daughter saw officers combing the Canyon Village area the day prior, when she began hearing rumors about an incident. Her daughter didn’t get confirmation until her friend arrived to work at the Canyon Lodge eatery at 7 a.m. Thursday and was sent home due to an “active shooter.”

“I don’t know why the company didn’t send out a text to let [employees] know this was happening,” Bartee said, referring to Xanterra.

Bartee said officers had searched the suspect’s dorm on Wednesday.

“He wasn’t there,” Bartee said. “They knew he may be a danger, and they didn’t say anything to anyone.”

Earlier in the day Thursday, before the Daily spoke with Bartee, Mike Keller, Xanterra’s general manager for Yellowstone, declined to say whether the suspect was employed by his firm. Instead, he referred questions to Yellowstone.

Park spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.

Keller also did not respond to subsequent questions about the alleged complaints, working conditions at Xanterra, conditions of the company’s employee housing, and the company’s communication.

Exchanges of gunfire involving National Park Service law enforcement are uncommon but not unprecedented, according to Paul Berkowitz, a retired Park Service law enforcement officer who has authored several books on law enforcement in the Park Service.

Since 1900, Berkowitz said he has found at least 120 incidents where rangers have discharged their firearms in self-defense or been subjected to hostile gunfire.

In Yellowstone, the most recent incident that he is aware of occurred in August 2019 when four employees of another Xanterra hotel, Roosevelt Lodge, reported a co-worker who they feared would become an active shooter. The man, Timothy Stevens, had firearms and made white supremacist remarks, according to co-workers’ statements in court documents. Stevens spent four months in jail on drug charges and for possessing a firearm.

Since 2010, visitors to most national parks, including Yellowstone, are permitted to carry firearms, however it remains illegal to fire a gun or hunt within park boundaries. Firearms also are not permitted inside government buildings, such as employee dormitories.

Bartee said her daughter plans to remain in Yellowstone this summer despite the events of July 4.

“They love Yellowstone, they love the experience, they love the people they’ve met,” Bartee said. “But on the other hand, I think that they’re scared to come forward because they feel like they’re going to get in trouble.”