Idaho

Rancher’s family sues Adams County, two deputies over fatal shooting

Jack and Donna Yantis.
Jack and Donna Yantis.

The deputies who killed Central Idaho rancher Jack Yantis committed “a deadly response to a fictional non-deadly threat,” Yantis family members say in a new wrongful death lawsuit.

Adams County sheriff’s deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland shot and killed Yantis on Nov. 1, 2015, while the rancher was attempting to put down his bull that had been severely injured in a car crash.

A car driven by a Nampa couple struck the bull on U.S. 95 in front of the Yantis ranch north of Council. County dispatchers had called Yantis, 62, at home to tell him to take care of the injured animal. He went to the road with his rifle to euthanize it. The deputies said Yantis held his rifle in a threatening manner and refused commands to lower it. They shot him 12 times.

Jack Yantis’ wife, Donna; two daughters, Sarah and Lauretta; and nephew, Rowdy Paradis, filed the civil suit Friday in federal court. Donna Yantis and Paradis witnessed the shooting.

The 26-page complaint filed against Adams County, Sheriff Ryan Zollman, and Wood and Roland alleges several claims: wrongful death, unreasonable seizures, assault and battery, false imprisonment and emotional distress.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden recreated the last five minutes of Jack Yantis' life based on the sometimes conflicting witness testimony. Wasden said there is insufficient evidence to convict the two Adams County sheriff’s deputies involve

Among the lawsuit’s allegations:

▪  The deputies shot with intent to kill Yantis, rather than to warn or injure him.

▪  Following the shooting, Roland handcuffed Donna Yantis and held a gun to her head; Wood handcuffed Paradis and put his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to the back of Paradis’ head. Both thought the deputies would kill them.

▪  The sheriff was aware that Roland and Wood were together for more than an hour after the shooting, but made no effort to separate them before they gave statements.

▪  Both deputies falsely claimed Yantis had shot Roland. “In reality, Deputy Roland was unharmed.”

▪  The sheriff was “deliberately indifferent” to the deputies’ lack of, or improper, training.

The family seeks unspecified damages.

The Statesman has reached out to Wood, Roland and Zollman for comment. Undersheriff Jeff Brown declined comment to the Associated Press on the lawsuit, that news agency reported Friday.

Idaho State Police Trooper Mark Wright was the first ISP officer to arrive at the Jack Yantis shooting scene. His dashcam video and audio recordings provide details on what he learned.

Following a lengthy police and FBI investigation, state and federal prosecutors decided not to press charges against the deputies, citing insufficient evidence.

A bullet was fired from Yantis’ rifle, but investigators found no definitive evidence that he intentionally pulled the trigger. The family’s lawsuit claims the rifle “inadvertently discharged” either when one deputy grabbed him just before the shooting, or as a result of the shooting itself.

“I am not saying the actions by the deputies were justifiable, nor I am saying they were not justifiable,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said at the time. “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. And as a result of that, our conclusion is we will not be filing criminal charges.”

Zollman was re-elected sheriff last year. Wood and Roland are no longer with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Wood was dismissed and Roland resigned.

This is a breaking news report. Check back for further updates throughout Friday.

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

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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