In Idaho, however, where rancher Jack Yantis was killed Nov. 1 by Adams County sheriff’s deputies — apparently while he was trying to put down one of his bulls — no one is talking, though many have something to say. Yantis did not look much like Brown and other young black men felled by police. He was white. He was 62. Yet, like Brown and others, he was allegedly killed by overzealous law enforcement officers.
His family, however, is letting the system take it from there.
“The Yantis family discussed disclosing the names of the deputies, but chose to show respect for the investigation and the investigative law enforcement officers,” Paul Winward, the family’s attorney, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The family members trust that their act of respect will highlight the disregard and disrespect the two deputies showed toward them and toward Jack Yantis.”
In a telephone interview, Winward acknowledged it isn’t everyday a grieving family’s defense team offers “respect” to officers accused of taking a life.
“It is unusual, and I do wish I could share more information,” he said.
Why Yantis was killed isn’t clear, and is being investigated by the FBI and the Idaho State Police. As the rancher, armed with a rifle, prepared to euthanize a bull that had been hit by a car in front of his home— a grim task he had completed many times before — one of the deputies reportedly grabbed the scope of Yantis’s rifle and pushed him. The rifle may have gone off. That’s when the deputies opened fire on Yantis, who died at the scene. Both are on administrative leave.
Rowdy Paradis, Yantis’s nephew, witnessed the shooting along with Yantis’s wife, who had a heart attack at the scene and remains in intensive care. In a telephone interview with The Post, Paradis was very clear about what he saw.
“They murdered him in his own driveway,” he said. “… They chose to gun a man down for no reason.”
However, though he knows who killed his uncle, Paradis chose to remain silent and put his faith in the investigation.
“We don’t want anything to get out for fear of messing up criminal cases against these two officers,” he said. “… I wish I could sit down with you and go through the whole thing and get the entire story out there, but I can’t do that at this time.”
Adding to the surreal scene in Council, Idaho, where Yantis was killed, is the community’s size. Council has a population of little more than 800. The name of at least one of Yantis’s killers has surfaced in Facebook posts.
Ferguson has 54 officers; Adams County has just seven sworn deputies in patrol cars, two of whom are now on paid administrative leave pending investigation of Yantis’s death.
“It’s not easy to deal with,” Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman told The Post in a phone interview. With one officer at the police academy and two gone after Yantis’s death, he said he’s “down four guys to cover 5,000 square miles.” And, to top it all off, four inches of snow just came down.
Yet, even though it doesn’t take a detective to figure out who’s not at work and why, Zollman wouldn’t confirm the alleged shooters’ names, either, citing threats against the officers involved. (Reached by The Post, one of the officers hung up; a call to the other was not answered.)
“It doesn’t take long to know the majority of people in town,” Zollman said. “… People want to know what happened, but there’s not much we can do.”
Council, of course, is not content. After a town meeting in which some complained not enough information was released, a “Justice for Jack” rally was held on Saturday.
“If it had been an incident of violence against the police, there would have been charges filed immediately and video released within a day or two,” one commenter on the event’s Facebook page wrote. “What’s the key difference here? Why is this incident being treated far differently from any other? The key is that the aggressors in this case have a degree of blue privilege.”
“I’m here to support the family in getting the truth out,” Becca Barrow, who organized the march of about 60 people, told the Idaho Statesman — perhaps unaware that the family was willing to wait for the end of the investigation. “I am upset that they haven’t released the names of the officers.”
Still, the Justice for Jack rally was peaceful. There was a Facebook debate on whether participants should openly display firearms — that was “shot down,” as Dale Fisk, editor of the Adams County record, explained.
“No pun intended,” Fisk said.
In a telephone interview, Fisk, who wrote for the Record for much of two decades before taking over as editor about four years ago, described those who fear Yantis’s killers won’t be called to account as “a vocal minority” in an otherwise “very conservative community in a conservative state.”
“It could be everybody knows each other,” Fisk said of the reluctance to name names. “It could be a social pressure to behave. Everybody knows you when you speak up.”
He added that expectations in rural Idaho may differ from those in Ferguson.
“I was born and raised here and never really lived in a big city,” Fisk said. “And so I understand there’s a cultural difference there. It’s hard to see from that perspective.”
More from Morning Mix