Idaho State Police release witness interviews in Yantis Shooting

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jul 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-30 13:27:00-04

On Friday, Idaho State Police released audio recordings of interviews conducted with four primary witnesses to the shooting of Council, Idaho rancher Jack Yantis. 

Investigators interviewed Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Wood on November 4, 2015.  Wood described the events of the evening of November 1, 2015 in detail, explaining he was wearing a body camera that night, but it was not set to record.   Wood told investigators he went to the scene of a traffic accident in which Yantis’ bull had been struck by a vehicle.  According to Wood, Deputy Cody Roland was already on the scene.

Wood told investigators he assisted Roland in locating the injured bull.  Roland contacted a dispatcher, asking that she contact Yantis to inform him about the injured bull.

According to Wood, as Yantis arrived on the scene, he approached his injured bull with a rifle. Wood said Yantis was facing a direction which would have endangered emergency crews responding to the car accident, but he told investigators Yantis was combative and refused to follow his orders to point the rifle down. 

"He's pointing directly toward all our ambulance guys and fire guys and I said ‘Woah, woah, woah. Hang on,’" said Wood. Wood told investigators that’s when the situation quickly escalated.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said the series of events that left Yantis dead all happened in a matter of five minutes.

"Mr. Yantis was called at 7:22 p.m. The officers radioed at 7:27 p.m. that Mr. Yantis had been killed. So all of these events are occurring within a very compressed time frame -- five minutes -- from the phone call until he has been shot by the officers."

Wasden says information provided by the key witnesses was inconsistent, especially details from Jack's wife Donna and nephew Rowdy Paradis, who were both on the scene.

  As Donna watched her husband die, she suffered a heart attack. She provided officers with a video-taped statement while being rushed to the hospital

Ten days later, investigators interviewed Donna Yantis her from her hospital room. She said she never saw Jack point his rifle at the officers.

"The cop closest to me just pulled his gun and opened up fire and then he fell down and then he turned and pointed his gun at me and handcuffed me."

Paradis told investigators he saw a deputy grab Jack and sling him across the road and claims the last shot was fired at Jack as Jack lay on the ground, but Paradis never heard his uncle fire his gun.

"He didn't reach for the bolt to recharge it and if someone grabbed me while I was trying to do a job like that, my gun would've probably went off.  I didn't hear it go off. I don't think it went off, but I can't say anything."

Investigators with the attorney general's office reviewed more than 5-thousand pages of reports, lab results, witness statements and other evidence in this case. They concluded Yantis fired one round.

"Who fired first? Some indicate perhaps Mr. Yantis did or was it simultaneous? But in any event, as Mr. Yantis moved, there was firing that occurred and Mr. Yantis was struck twelve times and ended up in the roadway in the southbound lane," Wasden said.

In total, the officers fired 20 shots, leaving Yantis with 12 bullet wounds: eight from wood's .223 caliber AR type rifle and four from Roland's .45 caliber handgun.  Deputies also shot the bull six times.

Though some of the deputies' details don't match up, they both claim Jack pointed his rifle toward Roland and they fired in response to a threat.

Roland said, "When that barrel went down and he started to tip, that's the last shot I fired."

The attorney general acknowledges that this event was a tragedy, but he says he has to follow the guidelines of the law.  Wasden says that means the law would only allow the deputies to be charged if evidence supports a jury would be able to make a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.