An officer-involved shooting that left a longtime Adams County rancher dead Sunday has shocked the community and brought a tidal wave of recriminations for the county’s small sheriff’s department.
The Adams County Sheriff’s Office has been bombarded with angry calls and hate mail from people upset by the shooting, which left 62-year-old Jack Yantis dead on U.S. 95 in front of his home north of Council.
Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman said people in the office are being called “murderers” and said the calls coming in forced one emergency dispatcher to leave her post Tuesday. “She was so upset,” he said.
Yantis was one of two ranchers summoned Sunday night to a highway car crash that injured a bull; deputies were unsure whose animal it was, Zollman said. The bull was reportedly charging at first responders working to extricate two people from the Subaru station wagon that hit him.
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As deputies prepared to kill the bull, Yantis showed up — with a rifle. What transpired to cause Yantis and the two deputies to all fire their weapons is under investigation by Idaho State Police. On Tuesday, ISP said that anyone who was in the area around the time of the shooting should contact them at 208-884-7110.
The community is roiling with speculation, with many using social media sites to swap theories about what happened.
“Some of the comments on there are pretty negative towards what we try to do,” Zollman said. “They say time heals all wounds. This wound will be a festering wound for not weeks, or months, but years or decades.”
The department’s head dispatcher has arranged for a crisis management team to provide support to the Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re all going to get through this,” Zollman said.
UPDATE ON VICTIMS
Yantis’ wife, Donna, who reportedly suffered a heart attack after hearing about the shooting, was listed in serious condition Wednesday morning at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. She had previously been listed in critical condition. A hospital spokesman said Wednesday that the family has asked that no more status updates be released to the media.
The names of the Subaru driver and passenger, a man and woman who were transported by air ambulance from Council to Boise, have not been released by police, and their medical condition has not been disclosed.
One of the two deputies involved in the shooting suffered minor injuries, according to Idaho State Police. The names of the deputies and how long they have worked for the department have not been released.
Zollman said the Yantis family and the deputies are grieving.
“They are pretty upset and distraught,” the sheriff said.
Adams County Coroner Susan Warner could not be reached Wednesday. An autopsy on Yantis was conducted by a pathologist in Boise, Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens said. The results will be sent to the Adams County coroner in four to six weeks, she said.
The bull eventually was shot but it’s unclear who put the animal down, Zollman said.
“When I arrived on scene, it was dead by the side of the road,” he said.
‘PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE’
The dark storm clouds that hung over Council this week were almost a reflection of the human drama unfolding below.
“It’s a supreme tragedy,” Council Schools Superintendent Murray Dalgleish said. “It’s a tragedy for the town. It’s a tragedy for the families. It’s inexplicable, and you’re trying to find some rationality. This is difficult, very difficult.
“There are so many unresolved questions.”
Grief counselors were made available to students on Monday, he said.
One of Yantis’ friends said in a television interview that the community has had longstanding issues with the Sheriff’s Office. Zollman was elected in 2012.
“Zollman is new to the job. People being people, they already blame him for being one thing or another,” said Dale Fisk, a Council native and editor of the Adams County Record newspaper. “I don’t think there’s any movement or people having a hard-core vendetta ... It’s a small town, a sheriff is always a target of anybody’s gripes.
“I don’t think there’s been any longstanding animosity.”
Fisk is very familiar with Yantis. Just a year apart in age, the men both grew up near Fruitvale, north of Council.
“We grew up on cattle ranches a mile apart,” said Fisk, 63.
Fisk, who said he had not seen Yantis much in the past few years, called him a progressive rancher who was using state-of-the-art technologies to maximize herd genetics.
Yantis was also an expert logger, according to friend Buck Rekow.
“Jack was probably about the best faller in this part of the country. The Forest Service still came to him to deal with problem trees,” said Rekow, a 36-year-old Emmett man who got to know Yantis while working for his son-in-law about a decade ago.
Rekow said he admired the way Yantis lived.
“He made his living from the ground and the woods,” Rekow said. “What he didn’t raise, he shot. He was an avid outdoorsman. He had a great deal of skill and knowledge about life on the farm and in the woods. That is truly an example of what an Idahoan should be.”