Twelve days after the shooting death of an Idaho rancher by Adams County sheriff’s deputies in an incident involving an injured bull, U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson announced yesterday that the FBI has launched an investigation into the incident, according to the Spokane Spokesman Review.
Rancher Jack Yantis had been called to the scene of an accident between his bull and a Subaru on U.S. Highway 95 near his home north of the tiny community of Council, Fox News and other agencies are recounting today. Yantis, 62, was reportedly about to dispatch the injured bull with a .204-caliber rifle when he was allegedly grabbed from behind by one of two deputies at the scene and spun around. Shots were fired and Yantis was fatally wounded.
CBS News’ initial report may not have helped calm the situation. Back on Nov. 3, CBS reported, “A crash between a car and a bull near a tiny Idaho town Sunday turned into a bizarre tragedy, when an armed rancher confronted Idaho deputies planning to shoot the animal, sparking a gun battle.” But was that an accurate description of the events?
In the aftermath, according to published reports, Yantis’ wife, Donna, was handcuffed and suffered a heart attack. Reports also say Yantis’ nephew, Rowdy Paradis witnessed the incident, and also was handcuffed. Likewise, family friend Joe Rumsey, also reportedly witnessed the shooting and he also ended up in handcuffs, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The incident has infuriated locals, and made the national news. Yantis was well-known in the community, according to the sheriff.
It is not clear what, if any, verbal exchange occurred between the deputies and Yantis after he arrived at the scene, called there from his dinner table where Rumsey was a guest. The bull’s leg was broken, he apparently had been charging at people and the two deputies apparently had shot the animal, trying unsuccessfully to put it down. Yantis, according to published accounts, was standing a few feet away from the bull, preparing to shoot it in the head.
An FBI investigation will hopefully determine as close to precisely what happened, as it happened, and whether the shooting was justified. As things currently stand, that appears to be in serious doubt. The Spokesman-Review also noted that the Idaho State Police are conducting a separate investigation, and that the state attorney general “will be looking at possible state criminal violations.” The newspaper also said the FBI investigation will try to determine whether Yantis’ was deprived of his civil rights.
If the events unfolded as they have been described, a couple of questions almost immediately come up. Why would a deputy grab a rancher who was visibly armed, and who had been called to the scene by the sheriff’s department, as he was about to dispatch a large animal? What, if anything, was said between Yantis and the deputies that may have escalated the situation? Did Yantis accidentally discharge his rifle at the moment he was reportedly grabbed, and did that give the deputies the impression they were being fired upon?
Whatever else this may have been, it was a tragedy, and lines have been drawn. Public reaction, as indicated by comments at Fox News, the Spokesman-Review and Idaho Statesman, has been largely negative and in some cases blistering and accusatory. Yesterday’s announced FBI investigation may calm things down a bit, but maybe only a bit.
A man is dead, apparently over an injured bull estimated to weigh about 2,500 pounds. For a lot of people, in and out of Idaho, that seems to be a lot of bull.
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