Adams County, ID — Brian J. Wood, one of the two Adams County, Idaho deputies involved in the November 1 killing of rancher Jack Yantis, told his father that he “totally intends to go back to work,” reports the Idaho Statesman newspaper. Wood was hired by Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman on June 27, 2013, roughly a year and a half after being terminated by the McCall Police Department following an incident in which he body-slammed a 78-year-old heart patient named Rodney Whaley.
Unlike Jack Yantis, Whaley — who was briefly charged with resisting and obstructing — survived his encounter with Wood, filing a federal lawsuit that resulted in a settlement from the city. If Wood’s career in law enforcement survives the Yantis controversy, his punishment for killing a citizen will be lighter than the one he received for merely beating one. Whaley, whose chest had been stapled shut following a surgical procedure, was hospitalized for bruised ribs, injuries to his hands, a staph infection, and breathing difficulty after being assaulted by Wood.
On November 30, under pressure from his constituents, the public at large, and the blogosphere, Sheriff Zollman released the names of the deputies who killed Yantis. Wood’s accomplice, fifteen-year veteran law enforcement officer Cody W. Roland, became a full-time Adams County deputy last July after being employed by five other departments across the state. His work history, like that of Deputy Wood, remains largely inaccessible to the public. This isn’t true of Yantis’s personal background, which the Statesman highlighted in the supposed interest of fairness.
In a sidebar article bearing the predictable headline “Rancher had run-ins with the law,” the Statesman describes a 1997 case in which Yantis “unlawfully touched an officer” and was charged with “resisting and obstructing.” A plea agreement led to a $300 fine, a brief term of probation, and a withheld judgment, which means that there is no conviction on his record. The only other “serious” offense in his record was a 2002 DUI conviction, which led to a $675 fine, sixteen hours of alcohol education, and a thirty-day jail sentence (with twenty-seven days suspended).
Sources familiar with the investigation into the killing of Jack Yantis tell The Free Thought Project that the emerging official narrative is that Jack Yantis was a “hard drinker,” and that he was intoxicated on the evening of November 1 when he received the call from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office to come attend to a bull that had been struck by a car on Highway 95, which bisects his property.
“The idea is that what we see here is a case where ‘guns and alcohol don’t mix,'” one source said by way of summarizing what may prove to be the official rationale for the killing. Confronted with a drunk, obstreperous man with a gun and a “history” with law enforcement, the deputies perceived themselves to be in danger and acted in accordance with the “reasonable officer” standard in the Supreme Court’s 1989 Graham v. Connor ruling — or so the official story could run. According to his father, Deputy Wood is convinced that the shooting will be fully vindicated.
In September 2013, shortly after being hired by Sheriff Zollman, Wood posted to his Facebook page a photograph of himself posing in fatigues with a sniper rifle in an empty football stadium during his time with what should be called the FBI’s Lon Horiuchi Sniper Academy.
“This was day three of the FBI advanced sniper school in Chicago,” Wood wrote of his Chris Kyle wanna-be pose. “I’ve had thousands of hours of weapons and tactical training, and I’d trade most of them for those 3 hours on the stadium roof.”
Woods was a trained sniper and tactical operator, but on the available evidence he didn’t know how to deal with a wounded bull, and had no training in de-escalation. According to eyewitnesses on the scene November 1, as Yantis — who, once again, was on the scene in response to a call from the sheriff’s dispatcher — prepared to administer the kill-shot to the stricken bull, he was grabbed from behind and spun around by either Wood or Roland. Within seconds later, the rancher was dead, and his wife, who witnessed the killing, suffered a heart attack.
The Statesman reported on December 2 that Sheriff Zollman, who sleeps “with a shotgun at the door and a pistol by the headboard,” is prepared to reinstate Wood and Roland to active duty as soon as the county insurer gives its approval. The deputies, who are currently on paid vacation and benefiting from special security patrols at their homes, will return “as soon as they [officials from the Idaho Risk Management Program] tell me they’re good to go.”
Despite his professed bereavement over Yantis’s death and the resulting anger and frustration in Adams County. Zollman told the newspaper that he has “no second thoughts” about running for re-election next year.