(CN) – An officer who fatally shot an Idaho rancher is a survivalist obsessed with guns and the collapse of society, the rancher’s family says in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed Friday.
The family of Jack Yantis sued Adams County, Idaho, its sheriff’s department and its two officers, who faced no criminal charges for killing the 62-year old rancher in 2015.
Accounts differ as to what happened in the minutes before defendants Cody Roland and Brian Wood fatally shot Jack Yantis twelve times.
Neither one of the officers’ body cameras were on at the time of the incident, in which Yantis was caring for one of his bulls that had been hit by a car.
Minutes after Yantis arrived at the site where his bull lay injured, he was shot by police.
In announcing Roland and Wood would not face criminal charges, Idaho Attorney General called Yantis’ death “tragic and unfortunate.” But Yantis’ nephew Rowdy Paradis called it “a needless murder” by police.
“Damn sure isn’t worth dying over a damned Angus [bull],” Paradis told the Idaho Statesmen.
Wood claimed Yantis pointed his rifle at first responders after he leaned down to shoot his bull. Roland said he believed his life was in danger, and there is dispute about who fired first.
Yantis’ widow Donna, their daughters Lauretta and Sarah, and Paradis sued. Among other things, they claim Adams County should have known Wood was unfit to be a police officer.
Wood “has long been obsessed with the idea of killing, including how to train himself to kill automatically and without remorse,” their complaint says.
The officer is also 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,” according to the complaint.
In the version of events told by the Yantis family, they responded to a call from a county dispatcher that their bull had been hit by a car.
They went to put the bull out of its misery. But as they came down the driveway, “Deputy Wood wantonly fired at least six nonlethal shots into the bull’s body,” the family says in the complaint.
“If he believed that the bull was a threat to human safety, Deputy Wood should have put down the bull with a single deadly kill shot to the head, rather than multiple body shots.”
The family claims Yantis never pointed his rifle at the officers. But they shot at him “before ever perceiving a threat, much less a deadly threat,” according to the lawsuit.
Yantis’ rifle had a light trigger pull, which caused it to go off either when the officers grabbed him or started shooting him, according to the complaint.
The officers got together to make up a story that would justify killing Yantis, according to the family’s complaint.
After seeing police kill her husband – and after the officers handcuffed Donna and pointed a gun at her – she had a heart attack at the scene. The family also seeks damages for those injuries.
The family’s claims include Fourth Amendment violations and state law claims of wrongful death, assault and battery, emotional distress, and false imprisonment.
They are represented by Charles Peterson in Boise, and The Spence Law Firm in Jackson, Wyo.