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Skeptical investigators tried to get deputy in Yantis shooting to change story

Idaho State Police investigators tried to get one of the two Adams County sheriff’s deputies who fatally shot a Council rancher to turn on the other as the investigation dragged on, a document shows.

Seven months after Jack Yantis was killed, in June, investigators reinterviewed deputy Cody Roland and tried to get him to change part of his account. They said they did not believe the version put forth by Roland’s colleague, deputy Brian Wood.

But Roland stood by his story, insisting he had told the truth.

“I have no absolutely no reason to cover for somebody,” Roland said, according to a transcript of the interview. “I have every reason to tell you exactly what I saw.”

The investigators were focused on what happened during one critical moment while Yantis held a rifle just before he was shot. The record of the State Police interview is among the thousands of pages of records released July 29 after state and federal prosecutors announced they had decided not to charge the deputies in Yantis’ death.

Wood and Roland shot and killed Yantis after dark on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, on U.S. 95, the highway next to his ranch north of Council in west-central Idaho. Yantis was holding a rifle he had brought to euthanize his bull, which was struck by a car. Dispatchers had called him at home, where he was eating and drinking with his wife, nephew and a friend.

Yantis was shot 12 times and died at the scene. His family contends he was killed for no reason. The deputies contend Yantis held his rifle in a threatening manner and refused commands to lower it.

His death drew national attention and prompted “Justice for Jack” demonstrations in Council and Boise.

The Idaho Statesman pored over the investigative records, reading police reports and witness statements, listening to recorded interviews and watching videotaped re-enactments. The records help clarify what occurred before and after the Nov. 1 shooting. Their details provide insight into the behavior of some of the people involved, the problems with certain key evidence and the emotion-charged aftermath of the shooting itself.

The Statesman found:

▪  State police detectives did not buy the conflicting accounts given by Wood and Roland. Roland said Yantis shoved Wood, causing Wood to lose his balance. Wood said he and Yantis never touched. In reinterviewing Roland, investigators pushed him to clarify his account, saying they were trying to get to the truth.

▪  The two deputies spent at least an hour together in the same ambulance after the shooting. Law enforcement protocol calls for officers involved in a shooting to be separated immediately and not allowed to talk to each other until they can be interviewed separately by investigators.

▪  Scene security was flawed. Key pieces of evidence were moved before state police investigators arrived, including shell casings and Yantis’ rifle. Potential witnesses left the scene. And, as previously reported, there was no body camera or dash camera video.

▪  An emergency medical technician, who had come to the scene to help the Nampa couple who were injured when their car hit Yantis’ bull, helped to try to save Yantis’ life and then consoled Yantis’ daughter when it was clear he was dead.

Here are the stories behind those four points:

1. Detectives try to get deputy to turn state’s witness

After seven months of investigation, ISP detectives Jason Horst and Robert Boone decided to reinterview Roland for the third time because some critical things Roland had told them did not mesh with the evidence and other witness accounts.

The biggest discrepancy in the four primary witness accounts was whether Yantis and a deputy physically struggled.

Yantis’ wife, Donna, and their nephew, Rowdy Paradis, said a deputy grabbed Yantis from behind and spun him around just as Yantis was drawing down to shoot his severely injured bull.

Roland said Yantis shoved Wood after Wood tried to gain control of Yantis’ rifle because it was pointed toward emergency responders who were treating two people injured when their car hit the bull.

The only one who said a deputy and Yantis never touched was Wood.

“We are not even talking about a minor difference in this story,” Horst told Roland during the June 3 interview. “I want the truth of what happened in that moment. Because I think Brian grabbed him, pulled him back and that’s what happened. I can’t for the life of me understand why … everyone else is saying that and for some reason you guys aren’t saying that.”

They then tried to get Roland to turn on Wood. Also at this interview was Nampa attorney Kevin Dinius, who represented both Roland and Wood.

“One of the things ... that we are really struggling with is that there is like a complete discrepancy between your stories,” Horst told Roland. “The one that is out there is Brian’s. The one that is on its own is Brian’s. ”

The detectives laid out their intent in this exchange:

Horst: I just don’t want to see you get caught up in something that you don’t have exposure to, you know what I mean? You didn’t fire the fatal round. I think there’s some more you should tell us. I really do. The reason why the AG [Lawrence Wasden] and the U.S. Attorney [Wendy Olson] are here is they want to see you become a witness.

Roland: A witness? I don’t understand what you are asking me.

Horst: I do not know how to make it any more clear.

Roland: If I saw Brian spin him around — I am going to make this as extremely clear as I possibly can. I have a wife and a 3 1/2-year-old and a 1 1/2-year-old — if I saw Brian spin Jack around, there is absolutely no way I would jeopardize my two children and my wife to cover with some b---s--- lie. I did not see him spin Jack around.

Horst: There is my concern. Now that you told a story immediately after, you told your narrative, and you told it again, you did it on the video, now you are thinking I cannot change because there is no way out, there is no way out of this. But there is, right?

Roland: Like I just said, if I saw him spin Jack around I would tell you. If I, I will not cover for anybody especially when my safety and my future and my children’s and wife’s futures are in jeopardy. I have absolutely no reason to cover for somebody. I have every reason to tell you exactly what I saw. Every reason in the world. And I am telling you what I saw. Right or wrong it is what I saw.

The four primary witnesses’ conflicting accounts led Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to decide there was not enough evidence to hold someone criminally responsible for Yantis’ death.

Wasden emphasized at his July 29 news conference that he did not clear the deputies.

“I am not saying the actions by the deputies were justifiable, nor I am saying they were not justifiable,” he said. “We are saying one thing: It is our firm professional belief that we do not have sufficient evidence in this case to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

2. After the shooting: Deputies aren’t separated

Officer-involved shootings are investigated like any other shootings — as possible crimes. Because it would be a conflict for an agency to investigate its own officers, an outside agency is brought in to investigate a shooting.

Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman asked the Idaho State Police to investigate the Yantis shooting.

The first state trooper on scene was Mark Wright, who lives in Donnelly and was off-duty that day. He arrived at 8:46 p.m., about one hour and 20 minutes after Yantis was shot, according to ISP. Detectives also were dispatched that night from the Boise area, which is about a two-hour drive.

When he arrived, Wright was met by Sheriff Zollman. Wright’s dash-camera video captured some of their conversation, though it is difficult to hear in spots. Zollman gave him a quick overview of the crash and the shooting involving his deputies.

“Are those guys separated?” Wright asked Zollman, less than two minutes into their conversation.

Zollman told him they were in the ambulance.

Both deputies had appeared to be in shock, and EMTs had urged them to get in the ambulance to be assessed and treated for injuries, emergency workers later told investigators.

“They’re in there together?” Wright said.

Zollman said they had been in an ambulance parked at the scene for over an hour, according to Wright’s report.

Later in the conversation, Wright said, “I don’t know if we should separate them now, if they’ve been together for an hour, but I might just go peek in and say I’m here ... and see how they’re doing.”

One of the emergency responders told investigators that she cautioned the two deputies not to talk to each other when they met up in the ambulance. Rise Smith, a longtime EMT with Meadows Valley Ambulance Service, recounted this exchange between the deputies when Roland joined Wood in the ambulance:

Brian looked at him and says, ‘I know we’re not supposed to talk about this.’

I said, ‘Don’t go too far, Brian.’

He says, ‘I just want to know if you saw the rifle.’

And Cody says, ‘I saw the flash.’ He said, ‘That’s the only thing I saw.’

I said, ‘OK, that’s it guys.’ And he said, ‘OK, OK.’”

Smith told detectives that the deputies were never alone because either she or EMT Shanna Roff was with them.

Roff told the Statesman that the deputies did not talk.

“I can confirm that,” said Roff, who has been a volunteer with the ambulance service for about a decade.

Roff has had both professional and personal relationships with Wood and Roland, and their families.

“I’ve been on scenes with both of them,” she said. “As far as the escalation [in tense situations] ... I’ve seen them both very, very, very patient.”

Smith also noted that Roland asked for his cellphone. Zollman retrieved it from Roland’s work vehicle. Smith said Wood already had his phone. Both men called their wives, she said.

Idaho State Police said it did not look at phone records to determine whether Wood and Roland communicated with each other after the shooting or before they were separately interviewed. “It is not believed that they did,” said an ISP spokesperson.

Records show deputies were later taken separately to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, where their clothing and weapons were taken as evidence and they met with ISP investigators.

In Ada County, the protocol for law enforcement agencies is to immediately separate officers involved in a shooting and not allow them to talk to each other. The officers provide separate “safety briefings” to a member of command staff, giving a basic description of what happened, said Ada County sheriff’s spokesman Patrick Orr. An uninvolved deputy/officer is assigned to accompany them to a hotel, where their uniforms and firearms are taken into evidence. They are provided with clothes and new firearms.

Wood and Roland were not taken to a hotel because there are no hotels in Council, an Idaho State Police official told the Statesman.

In Ada County, deputies involved in shootings have up to 48 hours, or two sleep cycles, before they must be formally interviewed about what happened. They are not allowed to talk to each other during that period.

Why wait to do formal interviews? The current thinking is that at least one sleep cycle helps officers’ memories, according to International Association of Chiefs of Police guidelines.

Roland was formally interviewed at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 3, and Wood was interviewed at his attorney’s office on Nov. 4.

3. The evidence flaws: bodycams, a bullet and a rifle

Many unanswered questions about the Yantis shooting might have been answered if either deputy had used his body camera to record the incident.

Deputy Cody Roland said he left his camera in his vehicle. Deputy Brian Wood was wearing his body camera during the incident, but it did not record anything.

Wood said he turned the camera on before he shot the bull, but the camera’s log showed that he did not try to activate it until much later.

During his Nov. 4 interview with ISP detectives, Wood said, “I had it in standby mode. Once I realized there was an issue with the bull, right after the bull incident, I turned it on. What I thought turned it on and so it should have gone back and caught the incident with the bull. It should have also then been running through the rest of it ... ”

Wood said he later realized the camera had not been recording.

Wood shot the bull between 7:22 p.m., when Roland told dispatch the bull was getting agitated, and 7:27 p.m., when Yantis was reportedly shot, according to emergency dispatch logs.

ISP conducted a forensic analysis of Wood’s body camera. The camera activity log indicates that on Nov. 1 the camera was inactive all day until it was turned on at 7:36 p.m. — about 10 minutes after the Yantis shooting. The camera then attempted to record twice, 7:45 p.m. and 7:48 p.m. — about 20 minutes after the shooting. The log also showed the camera’s memory had been full since Oct. 24.

Wood did not respond to a Statesman query about why his statement that he tried to record before the shooting occurred does not mesh with the dispatch log and camera activity log.

Could Wood have deleted video from his body camera? That appears unlikely. Wood was wearing a Taser Axon body camera. Steve Tuttle, Taser’s vice president of strategic communications, said none of Taser’s Axon body cameras have a delete button.

“There’s no ability to delete in the field,” Tuttle said. “You record it, you record it. You’re stuck with it.”

He said the only person who can delete it is an administrator, and if that is done there are audit logs.

With witness accounts at odds and no body camera evidence, detectives had to rely more heavily on scene evidence.

Extensive lab testing of Roland’s clothing and gear could not confirm his account that Yantis fired his rifle at him. Lab analysis of a bullet fragment found in the middle of the scene showed that it could have come from Yantis’ .204 caliber single-bolt-action Ruger rifle — but the fragment was so deformed that they could not prove that conclusively.

That bullet was a critical piece of evidence, because if Yantis had fired at Roland and missed — as Roland said — the bullet isn’t likely to have ended up in the road, investigators said. They found no evidence that a bullet ricocheted off vehicles or equipment nearby.

In fact, investigators found no definitive evidence that Yantis fired his rifle that night.

Yantis friend Joe Rumsey, who happened to be eating dinner with the rancher that night, picked up bullet casings after the shooting. He tossed them on the ground after he was confronted by Roland, according to Roland’s account.

Yantis’ rifle was not near his body when Trooper Wright arrived at the scene. Yantis lay in the southbound lane of the highway, and the rifle was near the fog line of the northbound lane. Wood told Wright he threw the rifle away from Yantis.

The rifle’s stock was broken. Investigators determined the rifle was damaged by the deputies’ gunfire, but it could have been further damaged when Wood threw it onto the pavement.

The rifle is a critical piece of evidence, too, because investigators were trying to determine whether the rancher fired it or not — intentionally or accidentally.

4. The EMT: They covered Yantis, then heard screaming

Emergency medical technicians had not yet transported Jack and Dori Garner — the Nampa couple critically injured when their car hit Yantis’ bull — before the second round of mayhem occurred.

Crissy Gipe, an EMT with Council Valley EMS, told Idaho State Police investigators in a recorded interview that they were loading Dori Garner into an ambulance when shots rang out.

According to Gipe:

Someone told the EMTs the shooting was the bull being put down, so the EMTs continued aiding Garner.

Sometime later, the side door of the ambulance opened and one of the firefighters said, “They have somebody down up there. I think they need someone.”

Gipe offered to run up the hill and see who, if anyone, needed help. She saw several people on the ground in the dark. She did not know who they were.

One man, whom she later identified as Yantis’ nephew Rowdy Paradis, was face down and yelling violent threats, such as, “Well, maybe I ought to go kill your family. I’m going to go shoot your family.”

She knelt on the ground to help Jack Yantis, who appeared to be bleeding from the mouth. Senior EMT Jeff Canfield was there, too.

“I hear snotting and snorting behind me. I turned and looked, and the bull was trying to get up,” Gipe told investigators.

Yantis had no pulse and was not breathing. Gipe exposed his chest so she and Canfield could begin CPR. They found two large holes in his abdomen, and a third graze wound along his side. They cleared coagulated blood from his mouth to try to open an airway.

Yantis’ eyes were already fixed. They covered him with a blanket.

Then she heard some screaming. Yantis’ daughter, Sarah, who is also an EMT, had just arrived on the scene and wanted to try to save her father.

“I said, ‘Sarah, I’m sorry ... He’s gone.’ She’s like, ‘No, I can save him, I can help him.’ I said, ‘Sarah, honey, I am sorry.’ ”

Gipe summoned Sarah Yantis’ husband, Mike Armistead, and urged him to take Sarah away from the scene.

Gipe, who works as an emergency dispatcher for Adams County, said it all happened in a blur:

“It could have been seconds. It could have been minutes.”

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

Three key moments from Nov. 1, 2015

6:43 p.m. Jack and Dori Garner of Nampa collide with bull on U.S. 95, about 6 miles north of Council.

7:27 p.m. Adams County sheriff’s deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland shoot rancher Jack Yantis.

8:46 p.m. Trooper Mark Wright is first Idaho State Police officer to arrive at scene.*

Source: Adams County emergency dispatch log and Idaho State Police. *The Adams County emergency dispatch log says Wright arrived at 9:30 p.m. but his dash camera recorded the time as 8:46 p.m.

‘Shots effective’?

On Nov. 19, 2015, Idaho State Police detectives reconstructed at ISP headquarters in Meridian the shooting scene involving Jack Yantis and Adams County deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland.

After a walk-through of the scene, Brian Wood asked an ISP detective a question. The detective wrote up a report on the encounter:

“I was walking through the parking lot back to the district three investigations office. Brian Wood was walking next to me and asked me if my recorder was still running. I told him it was not, and he asked permission to ask me a question. He asked me if I could tell him if his ‘shots were effective.’ I responded by saying, ‘yeah.’ ”

Brian Wood dismissed

Wood, on paid administrative leave since the Nov. 1, 2015, shooting, was dismissed Aug. 31, according to Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training, which certifies all local and state law enforcement officers.

Within 15 days of an officer leaving, an Idaho law enforcement agency must submit to POST a change-in-status form indicating whether the officer resigned or was terminated or dismissed. A reason must be stated. On Wood’s form, an Adams County sheriff’s official wrote, “He was asked not to return from administrative leave.”

Neither Adams County nor Wood would comment on his dismissal.

Wood has had one other law enforcement job in Idaho: He worked for the McCall Police Department from Feb. 1, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2011. He was terminated from that job for poaching an elk.

Cody Roland resigned from Adams County on Nov. 30, 2015, to take a seasonal job. He will not be returning to Adams County.

Roland and Wood are still certified so they can still work as law-enforcement officers in Idaho.

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