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FBI Opens Probe Into Shooting Of Idaho Rancher By Sheriff's Deputies


This next story is about a community that's angry over a police shooting. But it's different from stories we've heard before. It involves a rancher in rural Idaho who was shot by sheriff's deputies. NPR's Martin Kaste reports that some see it as a case of bias against people who carry guns.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: The incident started when a car collided with a bull on a highway outside the town of Council, Idaho. The bull was injured, and its owner, Jack Yantis, brought a rifle. Matthew Taylor is a lawyer representing the Yantis family.

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Ranchers are prepared to use firearms in order to humanely put livestock or deer down as humanely as possible.

KASTE: But for some reason - and there's a lot here we don't know yet - the rancher had a disagreement with the sheriff's deputies on the scene. Words were exchanged. There was physical contact, and then one or both of the deputies shot Yantis. His wife, 63-year-old Donna, saw it happen. And this is her other attorney, Paul Winward.

PAUL WINWARD: They ordered her to the ground. She complied. They then pushed her onto the ground and handcuffed her and refused to allow her to assist or talk with her husband as he was dying.

KASTE: The Idaho State Police is investigating and not commenting yet. And in that void, anger is growing, especially online, where the case is getting a lot of attention from conservatives who suspect that Yantis was shot for trying to use his rifle on his own bull. And now, the feds are getting involved.

WENDY OLSON: At this stage, we're not looking at it as whether it's a gun rights issue or not a gun rights issue.

KASTE: Wendy Olson, the U.S. attorney for Idaho, says the FBI is looking at whether deputies used excessive force, as well as the same big-picture questions that have come up elsewhere in the country.

OLSON: I mean, it's not downtown Baltimore. It's not Ferguson, Mo., in terms of what the population looks like or the geography of the area where the incident occurred. But I think what it does underscore is how critical it is for law enforcement officers and the communities to communicate and to understand one another.

KASTE: The town of Council will hold a memorial for Jack Yantis on Sunday. His widow won't make it, though. She's still recovering from the heart attack that she had at the scene. Martin Kaste, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.

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