The FBI is investigating the shooting death of an Adams County rancher by sheriff’s deputies for possible federal criminal violations by the officers.
U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson announced the federal investigation at a meeting with reporters at her office Thursday in Boise.
The FBI’s investigation is in addition to the ongoing investigation by the Idaho State Police; the Idaho attorney general is serving as a special prosecutor in connection with the ISP investigation.
“The FBI is also conducting an investigation,” Olson said. “They have met with ISP. Our office will make a determination on whether there are any federal charges that can be brought.
“I’ve talked to the state attorney general’s office. They are two independent investigations and two independent prosecutorial decision making processes,” she said, adding, “there will be a sharing of information.”
The ISP and attorney general will be looking at possible state criminal violations; the federal authorities are examining possible federal violations. Federal statutes that could be implicated include the federal prohibition on a law enforcement officer willfully and intentionally depriving a person of his or her statutory or constitutional rights. Intentional use of excessive force by law enforcement could violate the 4th Amendment’s protections against illegal search and seizure.
Olson offered no time frame for the federal investigation. “We want to be deliberate and thorough,” she said. As authorities sort through the evidence in the case, she said, “people will need to be patient.”
“ISP will be thorough, the FBI will be thorough,” Olson said. “The attorney general’s office will carefully review the evidence, we’ll carefully review the evidence, and decisions will be made. … That does take a period of time to do and get right.”
Yantis was shot to death after a Subaru station wagon hit one of his bulls on Highway 95 near his Council ranch Nov. 1; dispatchers called him to the scene after the injured bull began charging emergency responders as they extricated the vehicle’s two occupants. The sheriff’s office hasn’t said anything about what happened next, other than that firearms were discharged by both deputies and Yantis.
Yantis’ family members, at least two of whom witnessed the shooting, told the Idaho Statesman the deputies had unsuccessfully tried to shoot the bull, and as Yantis aimed his rifle to shoot it in the head, they accosted him and shot him. His wife, Donna, who was at the scene after bringing Yantis his rifle, suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized.