Saturday, August 13, 2016

No Justice for Jack Yantis: The "Smoking Gun" is a Bloody Bullet

Jack Yantis with his now-widow, Donna.

(See update below.)

"Perhaps you can account also for the bullet which has so obviously hit the window?”

“By George! How ever did you see that?”

“Because I looked for it.”

Sherlock Holmes chides the indifferently attentive Inspector Martin of the Norfolk Constabulary, in “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.”

Critical evidence will sometimes evade the notice of an inattentive or inept investigator because he is not looking for it. When that evidence has been found, documented, and then ignored by the investigator, something worse than incompetence – most likely malice or corruption -- is at work. This is true of what Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden calls “the most critical piece of physical evidence” in the officer-inflicted homicide of Jack Yantis, a rancher from Council who was slaughtered by two Adams County sheriff’s deputies last November 1.

That crucial piece of evidence was a “spent shell casing” in Yantis’s rifle, along with what was described as a .20 caliber bullet found in the middle of the scene.

Yantis was summoned to that scene by the Sheriff’s Dispatcher after Deputies Brian Wood and Cody Roland were unable to euthanize one of his bulls, which had been struck by a vehicle on Highway 95. Five minutes after Yantis arrived and attempted to dispatch the wounded animal, he was cut down in a frantic fusillade after one of the deputies, most likely Roland, panicked and opened fire.  Wood instantly joined in, although in his initial interview with the Idaho State Police three days later he could not clearly articulate why.

“Sixteen (16) spent .223 shell casings and four (4) spent .45 shell casings were recovered at the scene,” Wasden summarizes. “These casings indicate that twenty (20) shots were fired by the officers.” The twenty-first round “could have come from Jack’s .204, [but] the FBI expert who tested the bullet will not testify to that fact conclusively,” Wasden continues. “There is no solid explanation as to how that bullet, if fired from Jack’s gun, came to rest in the middle of the scene.”

This is a monumental understatement, given that it is a fair approximation of an impossibility that the round could have wound up where it was if it had been fired by Yantis – especially when it’s understood that the bullet contained traces of Yantis’s blood. This was known no later than January 4th of this year, when the ISP’s Forensics department positively identified Jack Yantis as “the source of the blood on this item” – the “item” in question being a “deformed rifle bullet” that had been collected on the scene, but not accounted for.

The presence of a spent shell casing in Yantis’s bolt-action rifle means that he (or someone else) had fired the weapon at some point prior to being shot, not necessarily that he fired a shot on the scene, let alone at the deputies. The fact that his blood was found on the “deformed rifle bullet” almost certainly means that the deputies fired all twenty-one rounds that have been accounted for.

Wasden knew this, or at least he had no excuse not to know it. He likewise either knew, or certainly should have known, that this destroys the official claim that Yantis precipitated a “gunfight” by firing on the deputies, who returned fire in self-defense.

The balance of probabilities suggests that Yantis arrived on the scene with a rifle that hadn’t been cleared since its previous use, and that the deputies (to borrow Wasden’s language in describing a possibility he dismissed) “fired in a fit of recklessness.” This would certainly fit the definition of  manslaughter – an unlawful killing committed “without due caution and circumspection….”

According to both deputies’ accounts, as Yantis had lined up a kill-shot on the bull, Wood approached him and tried to prevent him from pulling the trigger, ostensibly out of concern that a shot would imperil EMTs and other responders on the scene. Both Roland and Wood initially claimed that Yantis pointed his bolt-action rifle in the direction of Roland and fired a shot at the deputy.
Wood (l.) and Roland.
“When that shot happened and I started shooting and then I – I assumed he had shot at Cody and I didn’t know if Cody was hit or not,” Wood stammered during his November 4 interview. After opening fire, Wood continued, “I had somehow time in that moment to go, `Oh, if that wasn’t him shooting.’ I know he threatened him. He shoved it [the rifle] out at him. If that wasn’t him shooting, there’s still a round in that gun….”

Roland’s story was that Wood had reached out toward Yantis, and that the small, slender 62-year-old man, who was practically crippled, somehow shoved the much younger, much larger deputy and left him off-balance. Both deputies have repeatedly denied that either of them ever touched Yantis’s rifle.

That was not Roland’s original story, however.

In the report of his November 3 interview with Roland, ISP Detective Jason Horst recorded that “As soon as Wood lost control of Yantis’ loaded gun, [Roland] reached down to try to un-holster his pistol.” (Emphasis added.) What this means is that at some point, Wood had control of the weapon, at least according to the other deputy. Roland went on to claim that Yantis turned the rifle in his direction, and that there was an “almost simultaneous” discharge of his pistol and Yantis’s rifle.

“He remembered the blast of the rifle and for lack of a better term, it rung [sic] his bell,” narrates Horst.

As noted above, there is no physical evidence to corroborate Roland’s claim that Yantis fired his rifle. An eyewitness named Tamara Sue Evanow (see page 236 of the Attorney General’s comprehensive file on the case) told ISP investigators that Yantis never pointed his rifle at either deputy. While Roland and Wood have claimed that Yantis was angry and aggressive, in Evanow’s account the rancher was composed and focused. The deputies, by way of contrast, were flustered and panicking.

“She was looking out her mirror and she saw the guy with the gun (Yantis) point down at the bull, then put his hand over up to his forehead like he had wiped it,” recites the ISP report. “There were also officers present. She thought he couldn’t do it and then heard someone yell `shoot that thing’ and just kept screaming at him (Yantis), `Shoot that thing.’… While still looking in her mirror, she saw the man (Yantis) turn to face whoever was yelling at him. She did not know who was yelling because there was a police car parked right behind her which obstructed her view. When she turned, the gun was still pointing toward the animal. She then heard approximately 4 to 5 gunshots.”

After the shooting began, Evanow’s husband grabbed her by the head and pulled her down. When she looked up again, she saw the deputies “throw a man to the ground, with a knee in the back….” Since this happened within seconds of the shooting, the prone figure had to have been the mortally wounded Yantis.

In every officer-involved fatal shooting, as I have noted before, the dead person is identified as the “suspect,” and the killer or killers will be designated as the victim(s). This means that every investigation of an incident of this kind is inevitably designed to build a case against the decedent, rather than to determine whether the shooters committed a criminal act.

All that is necessary to indict a suspect is for a prosecutor – or a grand jury – to decide that probable cause exists that a criminal act was committed. When police officers commit an act of homicide, however, the district attorney (or, in this case, a special prosecutor) will, in effect, try the case in a non-adversarial proceeding – and dismiss it without an indictment if he concludes that the charges cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The only important witnesses to the Yantis shooting, Wasden pretends, are Yantis’s wife, Donna; his nephew, Rowdy Paradis; and the two perpetrators, deputies Roland and Wood.

“The ultimate question is whether, when weighing these contradictory accounts, a jury would have reasonable doubt as to whether the officers’ use of deadly force was not `reasonably necessary,’” Wasden intones. He insists that a “capable defense attorney would highlight the basis for doubt by contrasting the observations of Rowdy and Donna with those of Wood and Roland.”

Yes, the job of a defense attorney is to force the state to prove the charges against the defendants – a task for which Wasden clearly had no appetite. If he had, he would have underscored the contradictions in the accounts (such as Roland’s original admission that Wood at one point controlled Yantis’s rifle) offered by the shooters, and the absence of physical evidence supporting the claim that Yantis had fired his rifle on the scene. He would also point out that at least three witnesses not involved in the shooting contradict key claims made by the men who killed Yantis.

For Wasden, however, the only evidence that ultimately mattered was the self-serving, and self-contradictory, stories told by the privileged predators who killed the man they had summoned to carry out a dangerous task that was beyond their competence.

“While the officers’ stories are not identical with each other in every detail, there is sufficient consistency between them to create, at a minimum, reasonable doubt regarding whether their actions were not justified,” declares Wasden in the written equivalent of a “sucks to be you” shrug. Once again, in any fatal shooting carried out by people not invested with Blue Privilege, the applicable threshold for an indictment would be probable cause, not proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Wasden and his underlings have certainly displayed a willingness to indict Mundanes on the flimsiest of pretexts.

A decade ago, Wasden’s office filed a felony criminal complaint against Carol Asher, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher, accusing her of “perjury” because she had the temerity to act as a conscientious juror in a spurious and abusive drug prosecution.   

The only “evidence” sustaining that indictment was the unsupported claim of the jury foreman. That state-worshiping invertebrate who violated the confidentiality of jury deliberations to tell the aggrieved prosecutor that Asher had stated, correctly, that jurors have plenary authority to try both the facts and the law of a case, and that the judge’s rulings regarding the applicable law are advisory, rather than authoritative.

If she had been convicted of perjury, Asher would have faced a 14-year prison sentence. The alacrity with which Wasden’s office sought an indictment against her – for the supposed offense of telling fellow jurors to examine the prosecution’s evidence critically --  offers a telling contrast to the enervating, tax-devouring nine-month exercise in contriving “reasonable doubt” on behalf of two deputies who gunned down an innocent man without legal justification.

Sometimes an investigator will miss critical evidence because he doesn’t know where to look for it. Wasden had the most important evidence in his possession – a proverbial smoking gun in the form of a bloody bullet – and deliberately chose to ignore it, and his office continues to misdirect public attention away from it. This is culpable malfeasance in the service of murderous impunity. 

                                             Update, August 14

In the comments below, Paul Bonneau points out that there is some confusion in the FBI document as to whether the item being discussed is a "bullet" or a "case."

People use the word `bullet' all the time when they really mean `cartridge,' so maybe the confusion got injected at some point by an ignorant secretary or other functionary," he observes. If the item was a spent case, then one likely explanation is that Yantis arrived on the scene with an empty case in the chamber, ejected it, and that it wound up spattered by his blood after he was shot.

If there was also a spent case in Yantis' rifle, along with the one on the ground that received blood spatter, that means Yantis actually did get a shot off into the bull," he continues.  "That shot may have been the thing that precipitated the cops' panic if one or both of them did not expect it. Sounds like manslaughter to me."

This reconstruction would make sense in light of Mrs. Evanow's testimony that Yantis kept his rifle pointed at the bull during the entire incident, as one of the deputies screamed at him to shoot the creature. This would mean that after he pulled the trigger, Wood would have grabbed (or at least tried to grab) the gun, causing one or both of them to lose balance. This would have lead to a moment of confusion in which Roland -- who has said he had "tunnel vision" on Yantis's gun -- to start shooting out of the "no hesitation" officer safety reflex, and Wood to join in.

On this construction, Yantis did everything he was told to do by the deputies, and was killed by them when they panicked. That would indeed constitute the crime of manslaughter.

We're left with the fact that the presence of Yantis's blood on the "bullet" was a piece of evidence that would have sent the investigation in a direction the AG's office did not want to go -- which would have meant investigating this incident as a criminal homicide, rather than ratifying it as a "justified" use of lethal force by the officers.


This week's Freedom Zealot Podcast also examines the most recent revelations in the Jack Yantis case:

Dum spiro, pugno!


Kent McManigal said...

Cops are scum.
Cops lie, and some of them murder, and almost all murdering cops get away with it because of the absolute evil of those who support cops- whether others in their gang of Government, or otherwise "good" people who spit on all that is good by supporting cops. Good people can't support cops and remain good, any more than good people can support rapists and remain good.

Anonymous said...

I think Lawrence of "Idaho" has a bright future in National politics ?
Or maybe on one of King Noah's priests??

Owyhee Cowboy

Elmo said...

These deputies' stories are all over the ballpark. This is the first I've heard of either one of them 'having control' of Jack's rifle.
Donna and Rowdy claim Jack was about to shoot Keifer when he was jerked from behind, then the shooting started. And there's no doubt in my mind that their blood (Wood's and Roland's) was pumping when Jack showed up, courtesy of a bull that was injured and on the fight, thanks to their complete lack of knowledge of how to put something like that down. They don't teach that at the FBI 'Sniper School' that Wood is so proud of. They teach it at the School of Hard Knocks, from which Jack had a PhD.

Brian Wood has posted cocky messages on his Facebook page lately, which doesn't surprise me a bit. But he'd best keep his mouth shut. The fat lady is still singing on this one.

BTW, according to the ISP report Jack was 5'7" 180 pounds, Wood is 6'2" 200 pounds and Roland (aka 'Rowland') is 6'3" 200 pounds.

Anonymous said...

Donna from North Dakota

We are having our own encounter with 'peace officers' here in North Dakota. So far, they have been measured in their response to ongoing and increasingly adamant, albeit nonviolent resistance to the massive Bakken Pipeline project poised to plow 100 feet under the Missouri River within 1/2 mile of the Cannonball River confluence and the Standing Rock Reservation. One officer had to be relieved of her duty because she broke down in sympathy for those being arrested for protecting their land and water.

The Lakota/Dakota/Nakota People are coming together with prayer and fasting along with strong leadership from the Elders. With several others, Standing Rock Tribal Council Chairman, David Archambault II, was arrested for blocking out-of-state pipeline contractors from bringing in equipment to begin the horizontal drill. Despite a lack of media coverage, people are coming from outside the area to stand with the local tribes.!/story.php?story_fbid=1755490368073327&id=1570124769943222

Longbow said...

But, but, but... the Vast Majority...!

kirk said...

one organ of the state investigating another organ of the state will certainly assure fairness, honesty and justice. after all, these servants only exist to serve those who pay their salaries.

now, after removing tongue firmly from cheek, the reality: there is no surprise here. one covers for the other so none ever get brought before a jury for their criminal behavior.

the solution: fire the entire sheriff's dept, hold a special election and then sue the FORMER sheriff and ALL his deputies for their actions and supporting such actions even if not directly involved by remaining silent. when news gets out that such actions are being taken, followed by the bankruptcy of the former sheriff and his staff, those following may think twice before letting their Napoleonic Delusions take full control.

SOMETHING had better be done about those murderers, or they will continue and likely escalate.

Paul Bonneau said...

The link to the FBI lab discussion mentioned a "spent .204 round", not a .204 bullet. This is more likely a .204 case that received blood splatter from Yantis when he was shot. No doubt he came to the scene with a case still in the chamber of his rifle, ejected it in order to chamber a live round, and then got shot by the cops.

There does seem to be a lot of confusion about whether the item in question was a bullet or a case. In the second report it mentions a "projectile" (with quotes included, which suggests it was not a projectile). People use the word "bullet" all the time when they really mean "cartridge", so maybe the confusion got injected at some point by an ignorant secretary or other functionary. But a case seems very plausible, while a bullet would make no sense at all, not simply resting at the scene - unless (improbably) it was a ricochet off the bull without the bull's blood! Anyway varmint bullets rarely ricochet.

If there was also a spent case in Yantis' rifle, along with the one on the ground that received blood spatter, that means Yantis actually did get a shot off into the bull. That shot may have been the thing that precipitated the cops' panic if one or both of them did not expect it. Sounds like manslaughter to me.

William N. Grigg said...

Paul, one "throw-something-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks" possibility mentioned in the investigation is that the deformed round ricocheted off the bucket of the skid loader on the scene. I had noticed the confusion regarding the "projectile" in the discussion of the item sent for testing. My suspicion is that the people in the AG's office weren't terribly motivated to disambiguate this question, because it would have meant turning the investigation into an effort to reconstruct what happened, as opposed to an exercise in validating the actions of the killers.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the whole idea of having ISP get involved to do an investigation and to turn it into the AG's office? Did ISP not do a real investigation by not reconstructing what happened? Did ISP just go through the motions of placing people in their places at the scene and note their side of the story from those places they were at, at the scene? Frankly, with the huge time delay from when ISP turned in the results of the investigation they did until word came out of the AG's office. The long time maybe because the investigation was lacking the depth of a better investigation. If that is the case, why did the AG's office not request ISP to provide more details other than what people said they saw while they were standing at point, here and there at the scene.
Frankly, the talk is, the two officers had a history of probles in past LE jobs. Jack Yantis shows up and sees the bull dying from being butchered in the way it was. He was upset at the officers and did he tell them that they were done in Adams county and better look for employment someplace else because he was going to see them get feed their badges? 4 shots with a .45 cal and 16 shots with a 5.56 is so far over the top that common sense has people wondering why. Would job protection have been part of it? And the lack of offering any medical attention by refusing to allow anyone to provide medical attention as the late Mr. Yantis family tried to do only to find themselves on the ground being handcuffed and in Mrs. Yantis's case on the way to the hospital with a heart attack.
Was there an investigation, no way because all of the known witnesses were not interviewed. Neverhteless the whole matter is now a larger mess than before the investigation. But none of this matters because as far as the official seal on this matter is, this matter is officially closed. Lets see if the citizens of Adams county vote in a new sheriff come election day. Watch out for voter fraud because someone new could look at all the records of this situation.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a possible assassination to me. How did that bull get hit?

Elmo said...

Reply to question above:
Idaho is an Open Range state.

Anonymous said...

No way a 204 "bullet" was found "on scene". Every bullet for that cartridge is of super light construction. They are all made for varmints. And as such they will come apart at the slightest impact.
If one was fired.( they leave the muzzle at about 4000 fps) and impacted anything at the scene,(within 20 yrds.)Especially a loader bucket. NOTHING would be left of the bullet. If it hit nothing, it would have landed a mile away.......MTHead

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, there are three possible scenarios here:

1) It happened, more or less, the way the authorities said it did, in which case, the deputies are incompetent buffoons who are not worthy of the public trust placed in them.

2) The bull was intententionally hit to lure Jack Yantis into a killzone where he could then be assassinated under color of law.

3) The bull was accidentally hit and someone in the Sheriff's Department took advantage of the situation to order a hit on Mr. Yantis.

Did Mr. Yantis have any enemies in the Sheriff's Department? I notice that he ran for Sheriff; could that campaign have generated ill will towards him?

Understanding how the bull got hit could be the key to solving this mystery.


Thomas Lowe said...

American is an Empire I like to coin "Empire of the Imperial Eagle". As in ancient Rome when a centurion murdered a serf no one complained and no solider was prosecuted, this is where we are now in the former USA. It won't end until the USA is conquered by another country.

Anonymous said...

Jack Yantis was lined up to shoot the bull. When Wood jerked him backwards did Yantis shoot himself in the foot or leg? There are different .204 bullets and not all are made for small varmint and have elastomer tips. It is a strange rifle cartridges for him to put a bull down with but was he shot in the lower extremity. That would explain a lot.

Elmo said...

"It (.204 Ruger)is a strange rifle cartridge for him to put a bull down with."
My friend, who 'harvests' cattle at our ranch, uses a 22 Win Mag rimfire. All it takes is an accurate brain shot.
Jack Yantis has been doing this a long time. He knew what he was doing. Brian Wood didn't, he just thought he did.

Aaron Swenson said...

I can only hope so many corrupt police die horribly in the coming festivities, that no one wants to take the King's silver anymore.

Anonymous said...

North Dakota

Send them to Bismarck, at least for this evening. Police joined in round dance with Tribal Nations united against Dakota Access Pipeline at the State Capitol.

Prayer has been ongoing since April 1 at the Sacred Stones Camp on the west bank of the Missouri River at the site of the intended horizontal bore.