Adams County sheriff nixes plan for public meeting on Yantis case

Justice for Jack organizer Michael McLaughlin, right, and supporter Tom Landweer stand at a memorial near where rancher Jack Yantis was killed on U.S. Highway 95 north of Council.
Justice for Jack organizer Michael McLaughlin, right, and supporter Tom Landweer stand at a memorial near where rancher Jack Yantis was killed on U.S. Highway 95 north of Council.

Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman told residents at a community meeting last fall that he’d brief them once state and federal officials had decided whether two deputies involved in the fatal shooting of a local rancher would face charges.

On July 29, the day that Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson announced no criminal charges would be brought against Deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland in the death of Jack Yantis, Zollman reiterated his plan to hold a public forum.

But Zollman told the Statesman on Monday that there will not be a community meeting after all.

Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman discusses the findings of the Idaho Attorney General's report on the death of Council rancher Jack Yantis, who was shot 12 times by Adams County sheriff's deputies Nov. 1 in a confrontation after one of his bulls

Officials with county insurer Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, better known as ICRMP, don’t want him talking about the Yantis case, Zollman said.

The Yantis family has filed a tort claim against Adams County, Zollman, Roland and Wood.

The documents from the Yantis investigation are available to the public online at the Idaho Attorney General’s website.

“Everything is online where you can see it — it was released to the public,” Zollman said. “There’s nothing I can tell people that’s not already accessible to them.”

Several lawyers associated with the group Justice for Jack are reviewing the documents pro bono, said Michael McLaughlin, administrator for the group’s Facebook page.

“We are looking at every single page and breaking it down,” he said.

McLaughlin said the group, which has about 2,500 members, is abiding by the decision of state and federal prosecutors — even if they don’t agree with it.

“But we’re certainly not stopping there. This is obviously going to civil court,” he said. “We’re pushing forward.”

Zollman said both deputies, who have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, want to return to work with the department, but the decision has not been made.

“There is a process that we have to go through to determine whether they are fit for duty to come back to work,” the sheriff said.

Documents from the state investigation revealed that Wood and Roland had been disciplined by previous employers for their behavior on the job.

Some in the community do not want to see the deputies back on the job in Adams County.

“I am not comfortable having them back, and people who I’ve spoken with aren’t comfortable,” said Claire Cox, who lives south of Council.

“It’s not just our safety that we’re concerned for,” Cox said. “There are people who are angry beyond words. For their own safety, it’s just not wise to have them out here where all these people are so angry.”

Cox is working on the campaign for sheriff candidate Tom Watts, who is running against Zollman in the fall. Zollman is running as a Republican, Watts as an independent.

Adams County Commission Chairman Bill Brown said the sheriff is an elected official, and it’s his call on whether the deputies return to work.

“We do not tell the sheriff what to do and how to do it,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, it’s the sheriff’s call, and the sheriff’s call only.”

The commissioners do have control over the sheriff’s department roughly $1 million budget. Brown said the commissioners have not shared their opinions with the sheriff on whether the deputies should continue working for the department.

“We know at the end of the day, it’s his decision,” Brown said.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller