Wasden answers: What about the body cameras? And other questions.
Two body cameras.
Zero recorded evidence.
State and federal investigators said Friday that they didn’t have any body camera evidence to help them determine whether two Adams County sheriff’s deputies should be charged for fatally shooting rancher Jack Yantis during a Nov. 1 encounter in front of his ranch on U.S. 95 north of Council.
Yantis was shot 12 times. He died at the scene.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said Deputy Brian Wood’s body camera was on standby but the memory card was full, and Deputy Cody Roland’s body camera was not activated.
Sheriff Ryan Zollman said Friday that a department policy adopted after the Yantis shooting requires deputies to activate the cameras for all public interactions while on duty.
“If they’re assisting someone walking across the street, their cameras are on,” he said. “If they’re having any kind of law enforcement public contact, then the cameras are on.”
The cameras weren’t on during the encounter because the sheriff’s department policy at the time was to activate the devices only for “critical incidents,” Zollman said. The deputies had discretion on what was considered critical, but traffic control generally did not fall into that category. The deputies had been responding to a highway crash — a vehicle had smashed into a bull.
Yantis brought a rifle to the scene to euthanize his bull. What happened next is disputed. The deputies say Yantis disobeyed their commands, pointed the rifle at one of them and fired, so they returned fire. His widow and nephew say that Yantis did not threaten the deputies with his gun and that the deputies killed him needlessly.
The deputies’ encounter with Yantis occurred at night. If the cameras had been recording, the video may have been of poor quality, but the audio might have helped investigators sort out conflicting accounts of what happened.
Adams County residents who packed a local church last November to get answers from Zollman about the incident were angry to hear the sheriff say that it was possible the body cameras did not record the incident.
“If my tax dollars are paying for them body cameras, why are they not on all of the time on them officers?” one man asked Zollman.
The department received the cameras last July. On July 29, 2015, its Facebook page featured a photo of Roland with a body cam on his uniform and thanked ROSE Advocates of Emmett for making the donation.
At IdahoStatesman.com, read all of the Statesman’s coverage of the fatal shooting of rancher Jack Yantis and of the decision made Friday not to file charges against the deputies who killed him.
VIDEO: Watch the deputies re-enact the scene of the shooting, see an ambulance interview with Donna Yantis, hear Attorney General Lawrence Wasden explain the decision to forgo charges and check out reaction from residents of Adams County.
AUDIO AND DOCUMENTS: Hear interviews with witnesses and accounts of the incident, and read all of the investigative information turned over by Idaho State Police and the AG’s office.