Adams County Shooting
On November 1, 2015, rancher Jack Yantis was killed during a confrontation with two sheriff’s deputies. You can read the documents from the case here. http://www.ag.idaho.gov/adamsCountyShooting/index.html.
That night a bull belonging to Mr. Yantis escaped from its fenced pasture and was struck by a car traveling south on US Highway 95 near the entrance to Mr. Yantis’ driveway. The occupants of the car were severely injured and required medical and emergency services. The injured bull remained on or near the highway and posed a threat to the emergency personnel and others that were present. Adams County Sheriff’s Deputies, Brian Wood and Cody Roland responded to the scene.
One of the officers unsuccessfully attempted to dispatch the bull. The Sheriff’s central office called Mr. Yantis at home and he went to the scene with his wife and his nephew, Rowdy Paradis. From that point, the story becomes somewhat more conflicted among the four witnesses present. In any event, the Deputies and Mr. Yantis got into a confrontation during which Mr. Yantis fired his rifle and the deputies repeatedly shot and killed Mr. Yantis. Adding further to this tragedy, Mrs. Yantis had a severe medical emergency at the scene and had to be taken to the hospital.
The Adams County Prosecutor requested that my office handle the case. On November 18, 2015, an Idaho District Court signed an order appointing me, or my designee, as special prosecutor. The Idaho State Police conducted a criminal investigation and sent much of the information to my office for review on March 10, 2016. However, we did not receive all of the case materials and reports until June 9, 2016.
On July 29, 2016, after reviewing all the evidence, reviewing a mock-up of the scene and visiting the actual site of the shooting, I announced that we would not be filing criminal charges against the officers. In this case, we had four conflicting descriptions of the events that night.
I was charged with the sole and narrow responsibility of determining whether criminal charges would be brought against the officers. You can read the official letter to the prosecutor discussing those statutes here. http://www.ag.idaho.gov/adamsCountyShooting/oagFindings.pdf.
Of particular import is Idaho Code § 18-4011, which provides that a homicide committed by a public officer is justified “[w]hen reasonably necessary in overcoming actual resistance to the execution of some legal process, or in the discharge of any other legal duty including . . . keeping and preserving the peace.” In other words, the applicable law requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted unreasonably under these circumstances.
With four conflicting stories from eyewitnesses, we could not meet our burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted unreasonably. This is a very sad and tragic case. A citizen was shot and killed by law enforcement officers. That should not have been the outcome of these events.