The news that many Adams County residents waited for since last fall came on one of the biggest Fridays of the summer: the weekend of the county fair and rodeo.
The annual event is a pretty big deal in the town of Council, an old ranching community a couple of hours north of Boise on U.S. 95.
State and federal officials announced Friday morning that they would not pursue charges against two Adams County deputies who shot and killed rancher Jack Yantis on Nov. 1.
Related: 5 minutes, 4 accounts, 1 dead: What happened when Yantis died.
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Local officials and others in the community said the report was way too long in coming — and poorly timed.
“It’s wait and see whether this does anything to resolve any of the division in the community — obviously people on one side are going to be relieved, and the people on the other are going to be that much more unhappy,” Mayor Bruce Gardner said.
The mayor, a local veterinarian, was cleaning up a cocker spaniel that had been skunked Friday afternoon. He hadn’t yet talked with any community members.
Related: Conflicting reports thwart clarity in Yantis case.
“It hasn’t been out long enough,” he said, lamenting the timing of the release. “It’s unfortunate. I’ve run across this in the legal world before — big announcements being made on Friday. I don’t know whether the weekend is viewed as a buffer to kind of let things quiet, or what the strategy is there.”
Locals out for breakfast at the 7 Devils Cafe in Council’s quaint downtown Friday weren’t keen on publicly discussing the Yantis case, and the same was true at the fairgrounds. One man, who declined to give his name, said he wouldn’t even dare to broach the topic with friends or acquaintances — just too sensitive of an issue.
Read, hear, see what happened in the Jack Yantis shooting case.
“I just leave it alone,” he said.
Gardner, who knows both the Yantis family and the deputies’ families, said he’s taken a similar approach.
“It’s made it real hard,” Gardner said.
Sheriff Ryan Zollman has three children participating in fair activities. He said he was standing at the fairgrounds — just across U.S. 95 from the Sheriff’s Office — when word came down that deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland would not face charges.
“I am very disappointed in the Attorney General’s Office,” Zollman said. “I specifically asked them not to release this this week due to the fact that there is a lot of people involved in the rodeo board and the fair board, and everything else that are directly related to this incident.”
He said 500 to 600 people would come to Council for the rodeo Friday night. That’s a huge turnout in a town of about 800.
“People who are members of the families on both sides are involved in putting the rodeo together,” Zollman said. “This is an unnecessary distraction that we would like to have avoided.”
Both he and Gardner said they wouldn’t have time to get through the 5,000-page report on the fatal shooting of Yantis due to fair and rodeo obligations. Zollman, who held a town hall meeting in November shortly after the shooting, said he would hold an informational meeting with the community after he reviews the voluminous report.
The lengthy investigation didn’t calm the waters in Adams County, it increased the tension for all the families involved, said Lyle Sall, publisher of the weekly Adams County Record. He said there was a feeling of “waiting for the shoe to drop” in the community.
He said letters to the editor on the Yantis case waned in the months after the shooting but picked up again recently.
“People felt like the time had come,” Sall said. “They had waited since November, and it’s July so that’s eight months waiting, with no word. It’s been a long time for them to wait.”
Michael McLaughlin is an eastern Oregon truck driver who has been the administrator of the Justice for Jack Facebook pages. He said he urged those associated with his group to turn its focus to supporting Yantis’ widow, Donna, and her family. He said the group doesn’t agree with the charging decision but they will abide by it.
“It’s a sad day for us that obviously hoped for different news,” he said.
His group had no immediate plans for public demonstrations, he said, other than a show of support through a roadside memorial near the Yantis ranch north of Council.
“We are going to be leaving flowers, cards, letters, whatever anybody wants to leave in showing support and solidarity for Donna Yantis and her family,” McLaughlin said.