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Family says police used excessive force in Idaho rancher's death

SALMON, Idaho - Relatives of an Idaho rancher who was fatally shot during a confrontation with sheriff's deputies after one of his bulls was hit by a motorist last week are alleging excessive use of force by the officers involved, the family's la...

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Agweek

SALMON, Idaho - Relatives of an Idaho rancher who was fatally shot during a confrontation with sheriff's deputies after one of his bulls was hit by a motorist last week are alleging excessive use of force by the officers involved, the family's lawyer said on Tuesday.Authorities say local sheriff's office dispatchers informed Jack Yantis on Nov. 1 that the bull had been struck and injured by a car on a highway near his ranch in the small western Idaho farming community of Council.

His family's attorney, Matthew Taylor, said the 62-year-old Yantis went to the scene with a loaded rifle planning to shoot and kill the animal to put it out of its misery.

What happened next is under investigation by state police, but authorities said Adams County sheriff's deputies were also intending to put the injured bull down when he arrived.

The cattleman was shot and killed in an encounter in which it is believed that he and two deputies "all fired their weapons," the Idaho State Police said in a statement.

Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman declined to comment on Tuesday. Yantis was well-known locally, and Zollman was due to speak about the incident at a closed-door community meeting on Tuesday night in Council.

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State police say their investigation will take at least two months to complete.

As well as questions about police use of force, the case has ignited debate about Idaho's long-standing open range laws, which, under certain conditions, absolve livestock owners of liability in cases of road accidents.

Authorities have said that the huge injured bull was threatening first responders trying to tend to the car's driver and passenger, who were both injured in the crash.

Taylor, the Yantis family attorney, said deputies had shot the bull, but failed to kill it, and that the animal ultimately died a couple of hours after its owner was gunned down.

After the rancher was shot, the family's lawyer added, his wife and a nephew were pulled from their vehicle, searched and handcuffed by officers while Yantis lay dead.

"The Yantis family feel excessive force was used not only on the father but on the wife and nephew. She has stated she was threatened and her nephew threatened," Taylor said.

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