About 60 people called or sent emails to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office by midafternoon Wednesday, pressing authorities for answers about the Nov. 1 death of Adams County rancher Jack Yantis at the hands of sheriff’s deputies.
Yantis, 62, was shot during an encounter with deputies on the highway in front of his ranch. His wife, who witnessed the shooting, said it was murder; an attorney for the deputies said the family’s account is “not accurate in numerous material respects.”
Both Idaho State Police and the FBI have investigated the shooting. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney for Idaho are still determining if there will be any charges.
The Adams County deputies involved in Yantis’ death — Brian S. Wood and Cody W. Roland — remain on paid leave.
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Michael McLaughlin, who manages three “Justice for Jack” Facebook pages, said action on Yantis’ death is long overdue — and that’s what sparked the Wednesday email and letter-writing campaign. Supporters were asked to copy and send this message to the Attorney General’s Office:
“We the people ask for action concerning Cody Rowland and Brian Wood. At this time, after paying their wages for six months, we would expect to Hear any and all charges your investigation has identified. Whether it be the Charge of excessive force or Charges up to and/or including MURDER, we demand as American citizens that our voices not be ignored any longer.”
Social media posts about the campaign include a link to the contact page on the AG’s website and the phone number and mailing address for the AG’s Office.
McLaughlin, a truck driver who lives in Jordan Valley, Ore., said about 50,000 people are following the situation through the sites he manages.
“It’s amazing how many people follow this from all over the world — Australia, Alaska, Vietnam,” said McLaughlin, who met Jack Yantis more than two decades ago when he bought some property from him.
Each day, McLaughlin posts how many days it’s been since Yantis died. Today, that count reached 199.
In addition to the email/letter/phone campaign, supporters plan to hold a rally outside the Idaho Attorney General’s Office at 3 p.m. Friday.
“A lot of our members have said, ‘We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to do something,’” McLaughlin said. “It was just time. Honestly, it was past time. We should have been on somebody’s steps before this.”
Todd Dvorak, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said Wednesday the office does not have a timeline for a decision on charges. “There is nothing else I can say at this point,” he wrote in an email.
By about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the office had received about 50 emails, most with the same message, and about 10 phone calls, Dvorak said.
U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson sent this statement when asked for an update on the investigation:
“We are working diligently to review all the investigative materials in this case, and we will make a prosecutive decision at the end of that time. We are aware of the substantial public interest in this case, and we are very mindful of the impact the length of time that has passed has on the Yantis family, the subjects of the investigation and the Adams County community. We want to make sure we are thorough and make the best decision we can. We also are in touch with the State Attorney General’s Office and will coordinate the timing of an announcement in our matter with that office, if possible.”
McLaughlin said he has permission from Yantis’ widow, Donna, to share some of what she posts about Jack. On Tuesday he posted this message from her, which he said was in response to a comment someone posted on her page about Sheriff Ryan Zollman.
“...The character of a person shines through character. It is what we see in a person, more than how they look or what they say, we are focused on what they do. We admire and are drawn to the people that exhibit strong moral character. That is the character that was within Jack Yantis. For those who already personally knew Jack you know what I am referring to. If you did not have the privilege of having a conversation with Jack or witness his kindness, let me explain what you missed out on. If he saw a person in need of help emotionally or physically he would hep in any way he could. Jack was not only kind, but was a very good person. He was never fired from a job. He had a excellent work ethic. He always put forth his best effort into whatever he did. This man in addition to having a heart of gold, he was also a outstanding leader. He was the team captain of his high school football team, a mentor to 4-H for years, on the Cemetery Board for 12 years, an officer for the Council Mountain Cattle Association. He was a natural leader. Jack was a man with character and morality that should make anyone proud. Forget about the stupid election signs and focus on the loss of life of a good, honest, reliable, dedicated, dependable, hardworking, God-fearing man, and the void that was left behind.”