5 minutes, 4 accounts, 1 dead: What happened when Yantis died

Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden describes the Yantis shooting scene

Attorney General Wasden walks reporters through the Nov. 1 shooting of Council rancher Jack Yantis. Wasden's office announced July 29, 2016, it would not pursue criminal charges against the deputies involved.
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Attorney General Wasden walks reporters through the Nov. 1 shooting of Council rancher Jack Yantis. Wasden's office announced July 29, 2016, it would not pursue criminal charges against the deputies involved.

Five minutes.

That is how much time elapsed between the phone call Idaho rancher Jack Yantis received about one of his bulls being struck by a car and the moment Yantis was shot and killed by two Adams County sheriff’s deputies.

It took the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. attorney for Idaho nine months to conclude Friday that no criminal charges were warranted against Deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland.

[Related: Conflicting reports thwart clarity in Yantis case.] Both agencies said conflicting stories from witnesses made it impossible to sort out what happened that dark Sunday night, Nov. 1, on U.S. 95 in front of Yantis’ ranch 6 miles north of Council in west-central Idaho.

Wood said Yantis fired first. Roland said he thought the rancher fired first but said he may have shot at Yantis simultaneously. Yantis’ wife, Donna Yantis, and nephew, Rowdy Paradis, said Yantis never fired his gun and had the barrel pointing up during the confrontation with deputies.

While the deputies had body cameras, neither one was activated.

It may be up to others to decide for themselves who to believe. Here is what each of the four eyewitnesses told investigators.

Version 1: Rowdy Paradis

Rowdy Paradis crop
Rowdy Paradis, the nephew of Jack Yantis, works on the family farm in Council on Nov. 12, 2015. Jack Yantis was killed Nov. 1 by two deputies at the scene of a crash involving one of his bulls. “It was a needless murder,” Paradis said of the shooting. Rajah Bose New York Times

Paradis, then 41, was eating dinner with Jack and Donna Yantis when an Adams County police dispatcher called the house to say that a bull had been struck by a car and that its owner needed to euthanize it. Paradis said cows got struck quite a bit on the highway, and it wasn’t a big deal to put them down.

Paradis went to the road in a Cat skid steer loader that could light the area and haul the bull away.

He said he saw Jack Yantis, his finger on the trigger of his .204-caliber bolt-action rifle, getting ready to shoot the bull. The wounded animal had been acting agressively, so Wood shot it six times. It was still alive but lying on the highway.

There was an exchange between Yantis and the deputies. Paradis could not hear what was said. There did not appear to be any altercation until the officer grabbed Yantis as he was getting ready to shoot the bull. Then “all hell broke loose,” he said.

From about 10 feet away, he saw Roland grab Yantis by the vest, pull him toward the yellow center line of the highway and then push him away. Both deputies — Wood, armed with a .223-caliber Remington semi-automatic rifle, and Roland, with a .45-calliber Glock handgun — began shooting at Yantis. Paradis wasn’t sure who fired first.

“It was like they just lost their minds for a minute, panicked,” Paradis said. “I don’t know what the hell they thought he was going to do with that gun, but he came down there to do what he was supposed to do.”

Yantis was struck 12 times, once in the chest, three times in the abdomen and eight times to his upper extremities.

The wound to the chest, from a .223-caliber Remington semi-automatic rifle fired by Wood, was fatal, the state investigative report said. The round entered Yantis’ chest on the right side and traveled upward and to the left. The bullet pierced both lungs, fragmented in the aorta and lodged in the back.

Paradis saidthe last shot fired by one of the deputies came after Yantis had fallen to the ground and was no longer moving.

It “damn sure isn’t worth dying over a damned Angus cow,” he said.

Version 2: Deputy Brian Wood

Adams County Deputy Brian Wood Provided by Idaho State Police

Wood, then 31, said it appeared that when Jack Yantis arrived on the scene that he was mad that Wood had shot the bull but had not killed it.

As Yantis loaded his rifle and walked past him to put down the bull, Yantis referred to Wood’s rifle and told the deputy to “put that piece of s--- away” or something similar.

In June, Idaho State Police used its Meridian training facility to reconstruct the scene where rancher Jack Yantis was shot. Deputies Cody Roland and Brian Wood separately re-enacted their actions on the night Yantis was killed. This is Wood's ac

As Yantis leaned down to shoot the animal between the eyes, Wood said the rancher was pointing the rifle in the direction of where several ambulance workers and firefighters were. “I said ‘whoa, whoa. Stop. Hang on.’ And I stepped forward,” Wood said.

Yantis stepped back and swung the rifle across the-Wood’s belly and pointed it toward the first responders.

“I didn’t expect that he was going to shoot me, but it was all so really weird and I didn’t know. I yelled at him, ‘Point that rifle down. Point that — point it down.’”

Wood became aware that Roland had stepped up on his left and had barked a command at Yantis. Yantis turned toward Roland and shoved his rifle toward him at waist level.

As Wood started to bring his rifle up, he heard a gunshot he believed came from Yantis’ gun.

“The gun came up and I heard a shot. So I started firing into Mr. Yantis really as fast as I could,” Wood said.

As Roland also began firing too, Wood thought Yantis would fall down and drop the rifle. But he continued to hold it, pointing at an angle past Wood.

“I kept shooting, expecting again for the, you know, that rifle and, you know, or Mr. Yantis to fall,” Wood said. “He ended up falling and holding the rifle the whole time.”

Version 3: Donna Yantis

Donna yantis1
Donna Yantis

As her family approached the highway, Donna Yantis, then 63, heard several shots fired. She later learned Wood had fired at the bull.

She found the animal lying on the eastern edge of the road, with its head facing south. She handed her husband his rifle and she stepped back to get out of the way as he approached the bull.

Donna Yantis, the wife of rancher Jack Yantis, had a heart attack after her husband was shot. Some time later, she was taken by ambulance to Midvale and then by helicopter to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. Officials interviewed

Jack Yantis approached the bull from the north and aimed toward the back of its head. She was standing near the front of the skid loader and was in the line of fire, so she moved again. At the same time, her husband moved into the middle of the northbound lane, facing east and to the side of the bull.

Her husband aimed at the bull again but did not fire. Roland and Wood were standing next to one another in the southbound lane, perpendicular to the bull.

Roland grabbed Yantis from behind, knocking him off balance. Roland got hold of Yantis’ rifle as they were both moving toward the center lane of the highway.

All of a sudden, both deputies began shooting her husband, who was facing south. As he was being shot, Yantis spun to his right (north) and held his rifle to his chest. It was pointing skyward.

She ran to her husband and was ordered to the ground by Roland. She was handcuffed and searched for weapons.

Donna Yantis asked Roland why he shot her husband. The deputy told her Yantis had shot him in the side. She asked where, because she didn’t see any bullet holes or blood on his clothing. Roland did not answer.

Version 4: Cody Roland

Adams County Deputy Cody Roland. Provided by Idaho State Police

Roland, then 38, said that when Yantis raised his rifle at the bull, the first responders and the rancher’s wife were in the line of fire. He and Wood yelled at Yantis to stop him from firing.

“I personally know how thick those bulls’ skulls are and regardless of that point, I was not gonna allow him to shoot south towards all those people,” Roland said.

In June, Idaho State Police used its Meridian training facility to reconstruct the scene where rancher Jack Yantis was shot. Deputies Cody Roland and Brian Wood separately re-enacted their actions on the night Yantis was killed. This is Roland's

Roland could not tell whether Wood grabbed or pushed Yantis’ gun. He saw Wood reach out with his left hand and then get shoved by Yantis. Wood’s left leg was lifted into the air, and he hopped to the side on his right foot.

“As soon as Deputy Wood lost control of that loaded gun, I reached down to try and unholster my pistol,” Roland said. “I just don’t know why, but he [Yantis] just turned to me and pulled up and fired from the hip.”

Even so, the first shots may have been fired simultaneously.

Roland zeroed in on Yantis’ rifle with his eyes and fired three or four times. He stopped firing when he saw Yantis back up and his rifle barrel go down.

During a reenactment in June at an Idaho State Police training facility in Meridian, Roland said he felt his life was in danger.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that man was going to kill me that day. And I wasn’t going to let that happen,” he told investigators.

At the time of the shootout, Roland thought he had been shot. He felt pain in his ribs and a heavy breeze between his armpit and the side protection of his vest. He felt a lighter breeze on his leg.

It was never publicly reported that Roland had been shot. While a .20-caliber round was found at the scene and Yantis’ .204-caliber rifle had an empty shell casing in the chamber, the round had not struck Roland. The only blood on the round came from Yantis.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell