That Idaho rancher Jack Yantis died at the hands of Adams County sheriff’s deputies is not in doubt. Whether Yantis’ relatives are entitled to damages for his death is a decision that will be determined by a federal court, as the family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Yantis, 62, was called away from the dinner table Nov. 1, 2015, by sheriff’s dispatchers who said one of his bulls had been struck by a vehicle on Highway 95 near the entrance to his ranch home. Yantis was asked to euthanize the bull.
Yantis, his wife, Donna, and nephew Jack Paradis, were headed down the driveway – Yantis with his bolt-action rifle in hand – when they heard 6 shots fired in the dark in rapid succession. The shots came from Adams County deputy Brian Wood’s AR-15 in an unsuccessful attempt to euthanize the bull.
What happened over the next five minutes remains in dispute between the two deputies, Wood and Cody Roland, and Yantis’ widow and nephew who worked on the ranch.
The two deputies said Yantis aimed his rifle at the bull in a manner that put emergency responders down-range at risk, then held his rifle in a threatening manner and refused commands to lower it.
Donna Yantis and Paradis tell a different version. They said Yantis was yanked backward by a deputy while aiming at the bull, causing him to miss the animal. Yantis was then shot 12 times and died at the scene. Both deputies fired at Yantis, one with an AR-15, the other with a .45-calliber Glock handgun.
Donna Yantis and Paradis became frantic and they were put on the ground and handcuffed. Yantis’ widow had a heart attack on the scene and was air lifted to a hospital.
On July 29, 2016, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the U.S. attorney for Idaho announced no criminal charges were warranted against Deputies Wood and Roland. Results of the criminal investigation show Yantis fired his rifle once, though it was never determined which one of the three participants fired first. The investigation also determined Yantis’ blood alcohol level was .104 at the time of the shooting.
Now, nearly two years after his death, Yantis’ family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit
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.