Adams County, ID — Jack Yantis, a 62-year-old rancher from Council, Idaho, received a call from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office on November 1 informing him that one of his bulls had been struck by a car on the nearby interstate. Yantis arrived at the scene a few minutes later, armed with a rifle to put down the wounded animal, which had turned aggressive and was threatening emergency responders trying to treat two people injured in the collision.
Within a few minutes, Yantis was dead – shot by deputies on the scene. Upon hearing the news, his wife Donna suffered a heart attack. She was taken to Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise. As this is written she reportedly remains in critical condition.
“They took a family man from the dinner table and slaughtered him,” declared Rowdy Paradis, who says he was standing ten feet from the rancher when he was killed.
Sheriff Ryan Zolland describes Yantis as a well-known and widely respected figure in Adams County.
“This is going to be a big hit to this community,” a visibly shaken Zolland told Boise’s NBC affiliate, KTVB. “The gentleman involved, Mr. Yantis, was a well-known cattle rancher around here. It’s just a sad deal for everybody involved, for the whole community.”
Sheriff Zolland insisted that his department “takes matters involving any use of force very seriously and we have requested detectives with the Idaho State Police to conduct the investigation into this incident.” The deputies involved – one of whom reportedly suffered an unspecified “minor injury,” are on paid leave.
Assuming that the investigation proceeds in familiar fashion, the “incident” will not be treated as a suspected criminal homicide, but as an “assault on law enforcement.” Taking its cues from law enforcement sources, the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise – the state’s most influential media organ – referred to Yantis’s death as the result of a “shootout.”
That expression has connotations of an encounter between law enforcement and a violent criminal, rather than an eminently avoidable death that apparently occurred through miscommunication or, possibly, the panic-stricken reaction of deputies to the presence of an armed citizen. It should not be forgotten that Yantis was responding to a message from the sheriff’s dispatch, and trying to assist the first responders, when he was fatally shot.
The Idaho State Police, which is investigating the incident, is currently facing lawsuits from two troopers and one former sergeant who claim to have faced official retaliation for refusing to participate in an official cover-up in a previous law enforcement-related fatality. ISP Corporals Quinn Carmack and Brandon Eller, along with former Sergeant Fred Rice, were involved in the investigation of former Payette County Deputy Scott Sloan, who killed 65-year-old New Plymouth resident Barry Johnson by plowing his police vehicle into the side of Johnson’s jeep at an estimate speed of 115 miles per hour.
On the basis of evidence produced by Carmack, Eller, and Rice, Sloan was fired by Sheriff Chad Huff and charged with vehicular manslaughter by special prosecutor Richard Linville. That case was sabotaged through the perjured testimony of ISP Trooper Justin Klitch, who had secretly collaborated with Sloan’s defense team while working in the official investigation.
Discarding the findings of its own investigators, the ISP tried to craft a narrative blaming Johnson for his own death by claiming that alcohol was involved in the October 18, 2011 crash. During an April 2012 preliminary hearing in the case, Trooper Sam Ketchum sent a text message to Lt. Col. Ralph Powell (who is now ISP Director), complaining that Carmack and Eller had “laid us out” by testifying truthfully, rather than endorsing the officially sanctioned fiction.
One issue examined at that hearing was whether the original ISP report faulted Sloan for “unsafe operation of an emergency vehicle.”
In his surprise testimony for the defense, Klitch perjured himself by denying that the phrase had been in the original document. In a letter to the ISP written following the hearing, prosecutor Linville pointed to an email in which Klitch – before the official story had changed – “specifically requested” that the phrase be included in the report, based on the available evidence.
Revising his testimony to suit the official line was not the only favor Klitch did on behalf of Sloan, and for his own superiors at the ISP.
“When I initially asked Trooper Klitch to meet with me to discuss filing the case, he made a recording of out meeting without my knowledge or consent,” Linville recalls. “I don’t know why Trooper Klitch would make such a recording. His duty at the time was to present to me all of the evidence he had collected regarding the Sloan case. He was meeting with me to present evidence, not to create it.”
“Never in my 25 years as a prosecuting attorney have I had a law enforcement officer secretly record discussions during case preparation that are otherwise privileged and protected work product, then hide the existence of such a recording from me,” Linville protested.
Klitch’s perjury earned him a place on the “Brady list” – a roster of law enforcement officers whose testimony cannot be trusted in court. However, for testifying truthfully in court, corporals Carmack and Eller were summoned by their ISP superiors and told that “because of their testimony [they] could not be trusted….” Sgt. Rice, who had conducted a professional and conscientious investigation, was reprimanded for supposedly “withholding exculpatory evidence” – meaning that his original report was later contradicted by Klitch’s perjured testimony. Subjected to a punitive transfer, Rice was told by his new supervisor that he was “not being a team player” and that “he needed to stop more cars and write more tickets and that if he did not make the changes it would be reflected in his 2013 evaluation.” Rice has since resigned from the ISP.
The perjurer Klitch, according to his supervisor, remains “a valued member of the ISP” — despite being inscribed on the “Brady list” and a growing collection of lawsuits by motorists who have suffered abuse at his hands in pretext stops conducted for the purpose of asset forfeiture.
Jackie Raymond, the only surviving child of the man killed by Deputy Sloan, has filed a tort claim describing the ISP’s behavior as that of a criminal “enterprise or conspiracy …[to] conceal evidence, harbor and protect Sloan from criminal and civil liability, and intimidate, influence, impede, deter, threaten, harass and obstruct witnesses … to protect fellow Idaho law enforcement officers from the consequences of their criminal misconduct.”
The death of Jack Yantis may have been the product of tragic miscalculation, misunderstanding, or mishap. Now that the investigation is being conducted by a “criminal enterprise” with a documented history of suppressing and misrepresenting evidence, the truth of the matter will remain elusive.