BOISE, Idaho — The family of an Idaho rancher who was fatally shot by two deputies on Friday filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing law enforcement officials of violating federal civil rights during and after shooting.
Jack Yantis, 62, was killed two years ago after one of his 2,500-pound bulls was hit by a car and charged emergency crews on a highway just north of the tiny town of Council in west-central Idaho. Yantis arrived with a rifle just as deputies decided to put down the animal. Authorities have said there was an altercation, and Yantis and two deputies all fired their weapons.
“Even assuming for the sake of argument that the deputy had probable cause or reasonable suspicion, the deputy used excessive force to seize Jack,” states the 37-page complaint. “The deputies’ subsequent use of deadly force to kill Jack was intentional, unreasonable, and contrary to clearly established law.”
Yantis’ family filed the complaint in federal court against Adams County, Sheriff Ryan Zollman and former sheriff’s deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland. The lawsuit alleges nine counts of Fourth Amendment rights violations, including not only wrongful death but also assault and battery and false imprisonment.
The lawsuit comes a little more than a year after Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden decided there was not enough evidence to charge Wood and Roland following a four-month investigation. Roland and Wood have since left the sheriff’s office, while Zollman was re-elected to his post several months after the AG’s decision was announced.
Adams County Under Sheriff Jeff Brown declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by AP.
According to the lawsuit, Jack Yantis received a call from an Adams County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher asking him to help with one of his bulls that had been struck by a vehicle. His wife, Donna Yantis, nephew Rowdy Paradis and a family friend all went to the highway.
The lawsuit reiterates details in a prior tort claim, arguing that Jack Yantis stood on the highway behind the bull with his rifle aimed at the back of the animal’s head when Roland grabbed Yantis and pulled him backward.
Jack Yantis’ rifle went off and the deputies shot at least 14 times and 12 of their bullets hit the rancher.
The lawsuit maintains that Jack Yantis posed no threat to anyone and that deputies didn’t ask Yantis to put down his rifle or give him any other requests, commands or warnings.
The lawsuit goes on to say that deputies also arrested Donna Yantis and Rowdy Paradis, where both of them claim they were terrified the deputies were going to kill them.
Wood allegedly placed the barrel of his AR-15 to the back of Paradis’ head. Meanwhile, Donna Yantis had a heart attack at the scene and spent more than two weeks in a hospital.
“Deputies Roland and Wood were improperly trained,” the lawsuit argues, criticizing the deputies’ troubled history of prior law enforcement employment. “Specifically, the deputies had no training, or improper training, in the Fourth Amendment’s limitations on seizing innocent citizens.”