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Rancher’s wife: ‘I saw them murder my husband’

The downed bull lies on the road bleeding just beyond the family’s ATV on U.S. 95. The emergency responders in the background are unidentified. The body of Jack Yantis was on the road to the left at the time.
The downed bull lies on the road bleeding just beyond the family’s ATV on U.S. 95. The emergency responders in the background are unidentified. The body of Jack Yantis was on the road to the left at the time. Provided by the Yantis family

The family of an Adams County rancher involved in an encounter with two sheriff’s deputies says the deputies killed him in a “completely unjustified” shooting.

Survivors of Jack Yantis, the 62-year-old who died a week ago in the darkness on U.S. 95 north of Council, say they will pursue claims against Adams County for Yantis’ death.

Family members have shared with the Statesman their account of what happened last Sunday night. The account is in written statements prepared with attorneys the family hired after the incident, a video statement Donna Yantis made from her Boise hospital bed, and a draft transcript the lawyers prepared of one family member’s account of what happened.

The Statesman also interviewed several family members, including Rowdy Paradis, a nephew of the couple’s who said he witnessed the shootings.

“Law enforcement should be trained to de-escalate situations,” said Rowdy Paradis. “In this case, I stood 10 feet away and watched two deputies escalate the situation and needlessly kill a man.”

Sheriff Ryan Zollman did not respond Saturday to an emailed request for comment on the family’s account or to a message left with a sheriff’s dispatcher.

Here is what the family says happened on Nov. 1:

A PHONE CALL AT DINNER

The Yantises, Paradis (pronounced PAR-a-dis) and a family friend, Joe Rumsey, were finishing dinner about 6:45 p.m. Sunday in the Yantises’ home near milepost 142 of U.S. 95, about 6 miles north of Council.

They had been together since they were little kids. This was their dream. I mean, he cut logs for 20 years to pay for this place.

Nephew Rowdy Paradis on Jack and Donna Yantis and their ranch

An Adams County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher called. One of the family’s bulls had just been hit by a car on the highway, and the Yantises needed to go take care of it.

In rural open range, collisions between vehicles and livestock are not uncommon. Ranchers often must put down the injured animals. Jack Yantis had unfortunately done it before.

Yantis had raised and tamed the 2,500-pound black Gelbvieh bull, similar to an Angus, named Keiford. Its rear leg was shattered by the collision with a Subaru station wagon. The bull started charging people at the crash scene.

Paradis walked down to check out the situation. The injured bull had made its way back to the driveway and was lying in the grass.

“He knew he was home,” Paradis said. “He was hurt. But he is still an Angus bull on the fight.”

DEPUTIES SHOOT BULL

Jack Yantis told Paradis to get a rifle, the family’s skid-steer loader (a small front-end loader) and a chain. Paradis in turn asked his aunt to the get the family’s .204-caliber rifle and bring it to the road.

Yantis took a small all-terrain vehicle, in this case a four-wheeler, down the driveway and parked it on the highway facing the animal.

Jack went to the end of the driveway to end the bull’s life and protect anyone from getting hurt, including the very deputies who shot and killed him.

Donna Yantis, widow

While Paradis was getting the skid loader, the deputies started shooting at the bull. At least one of them had a semiautomatic rifle, perhaps an AR-15, an adaptation of the military M16.

“They opened up with their pistols and their M16s ... before Jack got there,” Paradis said. “That’s an inhumane deal. ... This is a 2-ton Angus bull that’s pissed off, he’s hurt and psychotic. ... It was blazing down there and it sounded like World War III on this bull, because they got him charging at everyone again.”

Paradis drove the skid loader down the driveway and parked on the highway. The bull was lying on the pavement. Donna Yantis had walked the rifle to her husband. Jack Yantis was standing about 4 feet from the bull, aiming the rifle at the back of the bull’s head. His back was to the two deputies, who were standing in the far lane facing each other as if they were having a conversation.

“I put the (skid loader’s) lights on him and the bull, and he lined up to shoot the bull in the back of head and put him out humanely,” Paradis said.

DEPUTIES SHOOT YANTIS

The rifle’s barrel was about 2 feet from the bull, and Jack Yantis’ finger was on the trigger.

“Everything was going as planned. … I did not notice any conversation at all” between Jack Yantis and the deputies, Paradis said. “Then the one cop turned around and grabbed his shoulder and jerked him backwards.”

The deputy came from behind, spun Yantis around and grabbed the rifle’s scope, Paradis said.

The deputy pushed Yantis. The rifle was still in Yantis’ hands, its barrel pointed at the ground. Yantis was trying to regain his footing.

Paradis said he does not know whether the rifle fired, but he thinks it might have discharged accidentally when the deputy grabbed Yantis and spun him, or when one of the deputy’s bullets pierced Yantis’ hand holding the rifle, hitting the gun and damaging it.

One deputy began shooting at Yantis, then the other deputy started shooting.

HANDCUFFS AND A HEART ATTACK

Donna Yantis said she and Paradis screamed at the deputies to stop.

Shot in the chest and abdomen, Jack Yantis fell to the ground. Neither deputy went to check on him. Paradis and Donna Yantis started running toward him.

“And then they threatened me and my nephew ... threw us on the middle of Highway 95, searched us and handcuffed us, and wouldn’t let us go take care of Jack,” Donna Yantis said.

Paradis said one deputy pointed his gun at Paradis’ head.

Donna Yantis had a heart attack. Some time later, she was taken by ambulance to Midvale and then by helicopter to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where she remained hospitalized Saturday.

Rumsey, the family friend at dinner, had been near the wrecked car when the shooting started and ran toward Jack. The deputies handcuffed him, too.

‘IT WAS A SENSELESS MURDER’

One deputy said he had been grazed by a bullet, Rumsey said. “I asked him, ‘Where?’ I said, ‘That’s bull----.’ There was no blood, no torn thread, no powder burn. There was nothing.”

After the shooting, Paradis said, the deputies’ demeanor was “smug” and “almost celebratory.”

A deputy walked over, pulled Yantis’ rifle from under his body and threw it into the grass.

“There was no shootout. It was a senseless murder,” the Yantis’ daughter, Sarah, told the Statesman.

My dad is dead and the two deputies who killed him are on paid vacation. That makes me angry.

Sarah Yantis, daughter

Meanwhile, the bull was still alive, slowly bleeding out on the roadway. Family members asked the deputies to put it down to end its suffering. No one did.

“The bull ended up lying there for two hours,” Paradis said, “suffocating in his own lung blood because they shot him in the gut.”

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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