Idaho News

Prior employers disciplined the deputies who shot Idaho rancher

Newly released records from the state investigation of a rancher’s shooting by two Adams County sheriff’s deputies show that both deputies had been disciplined for behavior in previous jobs, and one had been fired.

Brian S. Wood and Cody W. Roland have been on leave with pay at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office since Jack Yantis was killed the night of Nov. 1 on U.S. 95 next to his ranch north of Council. Last week, state and federal prosecutors decided not to file homicide or civil rights charges against them, saying the evidence was too weak to overcome reasonable doubt.

After a vehicle collided with one of Yantis’ bulls, Yantis went to the highway to euthanize the animal with his rifle. Wood and Roland say Yantis disobeyed their commands, pointed the rifle at one of them and fired, so they returned fire. Yantis was shot 12 times.

Yantis’ widow and nephew said Yantis did not threaten the deputies with his rifle, and the deputies killed him needlessly.

The shooting is the highest-profile police-involved shooting in Idaho in recent years, and it drew national attention. After nine months, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the Idaho State Police released investigative records Friday.

Among them are documents showing that Wood was investigated twice and fired from his previous job as a McCall police officer after he poached an elk. Roland was investigated four times by the Valley County Sheriff’s Office before he resigned.

Wood’s poaching

Wood, 32, started his first law enforcement job, as a McCall police officer, in February 2010. Less than two years later he was fired.

According to an Idaho State Police report, the McCall Police Department began an internal investigation of Wood after learning he was under investigation by Idaho Fish and Game for killing an elk without a valid tag in Valley County.

Fish and Game, acting on a tip, cited Wood on Nov. 7, 2011, with three misdemeanors. Wood first pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty to two of the three charges: unlawfully possessing wildlife and having no game-hunting tag. The third charge, wasting wildlife, was dismissed.

The judge ordered Wood to pay a $1,050 fine and to complete 200 hours of community service. His hunting license was suspended for three years. In May 2013, the judge issued a withheld judgment, meaning the guilty plea was withdrawn and the case dismissed.

Meanwhile, the city of McCall wrote Wood a letter saying it intended to terminate his employment. Wood wrote back, asking not to be fired. He said he was wrong to shoot the elk, but he thought he had a valid tag for the zone. Wood said he actually had a tag for another zone, while a friend with whom he usually hunts had the tag for the McCall zone.

When Wood shot the spike elk — a young male with unbranched antlers — near his McCall home, he was hunting alone.

McCall’s investigation found that Wood violated several hunting-related laws, two police department policies — conduct unbecoming and failure to maintain level of moral conduct — and a city policy prohibiting employees from engaging in criminal conduct. He was fired Nov. 30, 2011.

Wood’s firing led Idaho Peace Officer and Standards Training, a division of the Idaho State Police, to begin an investigation to determine whether Wood should be decertified. All local and state law enforcement officers in Idaho must be certified through POST.

Jerry Summers was McCall’s police chief when Wood worked there.

“I received a call from the POST decertification investigator questioning comments that were made and truthfulness by Mr. Wood,” Summers told the Statesman this week, declining to be more specific. “I provided additional documentation to that investigator and said that if, in his estimation, the officer was being untruthful, that my recommendation would be to decertify the officer.”

After McCall fired him, Wood took construction jobs and other nonpolice work. On Oct. 4, 2012, he filed a a tort claim against the Idaho State Police and Jim Tibbs, a POST investigator and veteran police officer who then sat on the Boise City Council and is now an Ada County commissioner.

The claim — which Idaho law requires before anyone sues a state or local agency — alleged that Tibbs and “other unknown agents … were involved in the unlawful dissemination of information gleaned from a confidential interview between Investigator Tibbs and Mr. Wood.”

Ten weeks after that, POST dismissed the decertification investigation. Tibbs declined to comment. The Statesman has a request pending with POST for documents about the investigation.

Woods returned to law enforcement in June 2013 when Sheriff Ryan Zollman of neighboring Adams County hired him as a part-time marine deputy. Wood became a full-time deputy that September.

Zollman told the Statesman that he did not know then that Wood had been investigated by POST or that McCall had fired him. Summers, who was no longer McCall’s police chief, said Zollman did not contact him for a reference or background check.

Zollman said July 29 that both deputies want to return to work. “They have to be psychologically cleared,” he said. “That is a standard protocol throughout all law enforcement ... It will be weeks before that decision is made.”

Another incident occurred several months before the poaching violation. A 78-year-old McCall man, Rodney Whaley, accused Wood of using excessive force during a July 6, 2011, traffic stop for speeding. Whaley sued McCall in federal court and received a $14,500 settlement. Wood was not disciplined for that, according to ISP.

On June 30, 2015, Wood was placed on probation for four months for repeatedly submitting late reports. That probation would have ended on or around Nov. 1 — the day Yantis was shot.

Wood did not respond to repeated requests for comments.

Roland’s incidents

Roland, 38, has worked for six Idaho law enforcement agencies since 2000, including the sheriff’s offices of Adams, Canyon and Valley counties and the Gooding, Parma and Wilder police departments. Roland told the Statesman that he also worked in Basra, Iraq, for military defense contractor DynCorp International from 2008 to 2010. Zollman hired him as a patrol deputy in August 2014.

An ISP report said four incidents in Roland’s tenure in Valley County from 2005 to 2012 resulted in investigations or discipline:

1. On Jan. 12, 2007, after a complaint from a motorist, Roland was counseled for his attitude during a traffic stop. The ISP report provided no details. Roland told the Statesman he does not recall the specific incident, but the statement is correct.

2. On May 14, 2008, Roland received a letter of reprimand and was placed on probation for one year for conduct unbecoming, which stemmed from an off-duty incident. The ISP report provided no details. Roland declined to provide details but said he was not demoted.

3. In March 2010, an internal investigation was started against Roland after a confidential informant provided information to members of the Valley County-area narcotics task force. The ISP report provided no details about this, either, and neither did Roland.

Roland told the Statesman he was questioned and then later told that the matter had been dropped.

“I never did figure out what that was about,” he said. “I never knew there was an (internal) investigation.”

4. In December 2011, the Idaho POST Academy told Valley County Sheriff Patti Bolen that there were inconsistencies on Roland’s POST and employment applications about his military service.

In a 2001 job application, Roland said he served in the military and received a general discharge under honorable conditions. In a 2011 application, he said he did not serve in the military. POST told Bolen that Roland actually had received an “uncharacterized/entry-level separation.”

That typically means an enlisted person served fewer than 180 days and the commander did not have enough time to evaluate the person’s conduct and performance.

Roland resigned before Bolen could address the application inconsistencies with him, Valley County Undersheriff John Coombs told ISP.

Roland told the Statesman the inconsistencies stem from a military paperwork error.

“When I was 18, right out of high school, I received a waiver for a hearing loss to join the military,” he said. “Once I received the waiver, it took approximately one year, that waiver was rescinded, and I was unable to join the Navy. I was issued a DD214 form.”

A DD214 form is issued to anyone enlisted in the military who leaves the military. It indicates length of service and reason for departure.

When completing employment applications, Roland said, he indicated he served in the military. Later, he said he learned he should not have received a DD214 form because he never actually served in the military and he could not state that he had. So he no longer put it on his applications.

Roland said he does not remember whether the DD214 said his separation was a general discharge or an uncharacterized entry-level separation.

“Given the information I had at the time, I was being truthful,” he said.

The Valley County Sheriff’s Office declined comment on Roland’s employment. It is a personnel matter, said Sgt. Jason Speer.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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