This past week in the rural town of Council, Idaho, police shot and killed 62-year-old Jack Yantis, who was apparently following their instructions. The horrible incident was witnessed by friends and family, and his wife actually experienced a heart attack after seeing her husband die. (Thankfully, she is recovering from it.) These they recently gave an in-depth account of the story to The Idaho Statesman, Idaho’s main newspaper, and that’s our main story today. It’s a depressing read, but a necessary one to understand the full shock and grief the family is going through.
There are a lot of things that can be said about this incident. In one way this can be seen as just another unnecessary death at the hands of police. There is a completely innocent reason to explain the victim’s behavior (needing to put down the bull). The situation escalated out of control for no reason (approaching a man who is aiming a gun, from behind). Police did not give medical attention to the victim after they shot him. And when onlookers tried to check on the victim, they were tackled and/or threatened.
In this way, you could change just a couple variables and tell the same story of the late Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old kid in Cleveland who was killed by police last year. There was a completely innocent explanation for his behavior too (he was 12 and had an airsoft gun). The situation escalated out of control for no reason (because the cops nearly ran him over with their vehicle and fired shots before speaking with him). Tamir also did not receive medical attention from the police that shot him, and his sister was tackled when she tried to come check on him. It’s kind of like police brutality mad libs.
But it’s also important to recognize what is different. At least in Idaho, this story is getting mainstream coverage, including this long article above from the victim’s perspective. And the circumstances are even more absurd than normal because the police called the victim, and he had to bring a weapon to solve the problem. It’s entirely inconceivable to think either that he was a threat to police or that he escalated the situation by not complying. Indeed, it’s nearly impossible to find any way to vilify this victim at all. He’s a 62-year-old white American farmer who lives in a place that’s so rural that it’s only known for a token obscure event (the World Championship Porcupine Races, if you’re wondering). Thus, people who are inclined to give the cops the benefit of the doubt in every situation must be left scratching their head here. If this can happen to a man like Jack Yantis, then it isn’t possible some of the other victims were just as blameless? Let’s hope this may finally be the story that breaks the false narratives that many conventional conservatives have been sold on this subject.