An Idaho rancher was “needlessly” killed by two deputies at the scene of an accident last week, according to family members present when he was gunned down.
Jack Yantis died Nov. 1 in a murky exchange of gunfire with two Adams County deputies along a dark, open stretch of highway. Yantis had responded to the scene after one of his bulls was struck by a station wagon after sundown. This much is agreed upon: at some point, something went wrong and Yantis was killed during an incident in which he and the two deputies all fired their weapons, according to authorities.
“In this case, I stood 10 feet away and watched two deputies escalate the situation and needlessly kill a man"
- Rowdy Paradis
But Yantis’ wife, Donna, and nephew, Rowdy Paradis, told the Idaho Statesman on Saturday that the actions of police directly led to the death of the 62-year-old Council resident.
“In this case, I stood 10 feet away and watched two deputies escalate the situation and needlessly kill a man,” Paradis told the Statesman.
The family’s version of events begins with Yantis being informed of the accident around 6:45 p.m. An Adams County dispatcher told the rancher he’d have to go down to the highway and put down his 2,500-pound black Gelbvieh bull, whose leg was injured by the crash and who was becoming agitated. As Yantis was making the necessary arrangements to take care of the animal, the deputies began shooting at the bull, but failed to kill it, instead reportedly hitting it in the gut, prolonging its misery and causing the bull to become even more distressed.
Yantis finally got his .204-caliber rifle and stood about 2 feet from the bull, prepared to shoot it when “one cop turned around and grabbed [Yantis’] shoulder and jerked him backward,” according to Paradis. The rifle’s barrel was still pointed at the ground at this point, the family contends, though Paradis does allow that the gun may have fired, perhaps accidentally. A deputy said later that he had been grazed by a bullet, according to a family friend also present, who contends he didn’t see any “blood,” “torn thread” or “powder burn.” The official statement on the incident also alleges that one of the deputies suffered a minor injury.
That discharge prompted the deputies to turn their guns on Yantis, shooting him in the chest and abdomen, ultimately killing him, the family said. When Donna and Paradis approached Yantis, the deputies “threw us on the middle of Highway 95, searched us and handcuffed us, and wouldn’t let us go take care of Jack,” Donna said. Paradis said one of the deputies pointed a gun at his head.
During the incident, Donna suffered a heart attack. She was in critical condition for several days before being upgraded to serious.
The bull was left to bleed out on the road, and police ignored their pleas to humanely kill the animal, the family said.
The deputies were wearing body cameras, Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman told the Statesman on Thursday, though it’s unclear whether they recorded the incident. A dash camera in the deputies’ vehicle was not turned on, Zollman said. The investigation is currently in the hands of the Idaho State Police.
“I’m a transparent person, I will give you the facts when I know the facts,” Zollman told KTVB. “I’m not hiding anything from anybody.”