The sheriff’s office called Jack Yantis during dinner. A car had struck one of Yantis’ bulls, and the animal needed to be put down. Minutes later, Jack Yantis would be dead beside his animal.
The events of that November 2015 night remain the subject of fierce debate in Adams County, Idaho, where Yantis and his family owned a cattle ranch. When Yantis and his family went outside to shoot the bull, they encountered two sheriff’s deputies at the scene. The deputies fired at least 14 shots at Yantis, killing him on the spot. Both deputies claimed the shooting was in self-defense.
But in a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office filed on Friday, Yantis’ family describes the incident as murder by an officer who had previously spoken of a looming societal collapse, during which he would allegedly need to kill looters.
Jack Yantis, 62, would never have crossed paths with the officers had it not been for the call from the emergency dispatcher. One of Yantis’ bulls had wandered onto the dark road and collided with a car, the dispatcher said. The dispatcher asked the Yantis family if they would euthanize the animal.
The evening was already dark when Jack Yantis, his wife, his nephew, and a veterinarian friend walked into the fields to find the injured bull. But before they could reach it, six shots echoed from the road. Deputy Brian Wood had used his personal AR-15 gun to fire six non-lethal shots into the animal.
Wood, who did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment, claimed on Facebook that the bull charged at him, and that the shots were justified. But the Yantis family claims those six shots are evidence of Wood’s carelessness. In their suit, the family calls the shots “wanton,” adding that Wood’s “shooting toward the Yantis Ranch driveway posed an unnecessary danger” to the family “who predictably would be coming down the driveway, in the dark, to deal with the bull.”
Yantis arrived at the bull, carrying a bolt-action rifle. He appeared less than pleased to see Wood and his semi-automatic gun.
“Put that piece of shit away,” Wood claims Yantis said of the AR-15. Yantis loaded his own rifle and lined up to fire at the bull. No one agrees what happened next.
Wood claims Yantis was pointing his rifle in a dangerous direction, and that when Wood approached him, Yantis pointed the rifle at Wood’s partner.
“Recognizing Yantis' obvious threat, or attempt, to murder Deputy Rowland, I raised my rifle toward Yantis' chest,” Wood wrote. “While I was raising my rifle, I heard a gunshot. I believe the gunshot was from Yantis' rifle. The next shot I heard was from my own rifle. I fired my rifle at Yantis' chest multiple times.”
Yantis’ family says that’s not what happened at all.
“Without any warning, provocation, or justifiable excuse, one Deputy suddenly stepped up behind Jack, grabbed him, and jerked him around and backwards,” the family alleges in its suit. “Jack’s rifle never pointed at either Deputy. The deputies did not ask Jack to put the rifle down … The Deputies drew their weapons and shot at Jack before ever perceiving a threat, muchless a deadly threat.”
In the commotion, Yantis’ light-trigger gun fired into the air, striking no one, the family alleges. “The Deputies shot with intent to kill Jack, rather than to warn him or injure him. Deputy Wood shot as fast as he could.”
When Yantis’ family ran to his aid, the officers allegedly ordered them to the ground at gunpoint. Yantis’ nephew Rowdy found himself lying facedown, at the end of Wood’s AR-15.
“Deputy Wood stepped or knelt on Rowdy’s back and violently wrenched his arms upward. Rowdy told Deputy Wood that he had a shoulder injury, and asked Deputy Wood not to pull his arms so hard,” the family’s suit alleges. “Deputy Wood ignored Rowdy’s pleas, handcuffed him, and pulled violently on his arms. Deputy Wood then placed the barrel of his AR-15 to the back of Rowdy’s head. Rowdy thought that Deputy Wood was about to kill him.”
Yantis’ wife, who was handcuffed at gunpoint after watching her husband die, had a heart attack on the spot and was airlifted to a hospital, the family says.
In their suit, the Yantis family accuses Wood of having “an unhealthy obsession” with guns and explosives, which he allegedly sold. The personal AR-15 gun he used on the bull and Yantis “had numerous custom upgrades including a Noveske barrel, flash suppressor, and holographic sight with a magnifier.”
The family also accused Wood of being a so-called “doomsday prepper” who had previously talked of the necessity of shooting people in a future doomsday scenario.
“Deputy Wood has also long been obsessed with the idea of killing, including how to train himself to kill automatically and without remorse,” the family claimed. “By late 2012, Wood was a self-described ‘survivalist’ or ‘prepper’ who believed that the collapse of society was imminent, and that it would soon be necessary to kill looters.”
The lawsuit also cites a number of offenses that the family says should have disqualified Wood as an officer. In July 2011, while working for a different Idaho police department, Wood apprehended an elderly man who was driving slightly over the speed limit. The man accused Wood of using excessive force against him, and later sued the department, which settled out of court for $14,500. Wood was never disciplined for the incident, the Idaho Statesman previously reported.
Months after that incident, Wood was caught poaching an elk. His police force fired him for the incident. He had served fewer than two years.
Later, Wood began work with the nearby Adams County Sheriff’s office, where the Statesman reported that he served a four-month probation for filing late reports. The probationary period ended on around the date of Yantis’ shooting.