Idaho sheriff gets to keep job after threatening youth church group at gunpoint, but without his firearms

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(Video Credit: KIFI Local News 8)

Idaho Sheriff Craig Rowland, who allegedly threatened a church youth group with his weapon and then assaulted one of its leaders, has been ordered by a judge to surrender his firearms to state police, but shockingly will be allowed to keep his job.

The incident occurred on Nov. 9 when a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints girls’ youth group was going door-to-door leaving “thank you” messages for community members in Blackfoot, Idaho, the New York Post reported.

The group was comprised of seven girls ranging in age from 12 to 16 and an adult chaperone.

The group taped a note to the sheriff’s car and then rang his doorbell before running away according to court documents. As the group tried to drive away, Rowland stopped them. The sheriff allegedly waved their car over and pointed his gun at the chaperone’s head and at two of the girls before demanding the woman “get the (expletive) out of the car,” according to The Idaho State Journal. He allegedly yanked the driver, whom he has reportedly known for 30 years, out of the car by her hair and then threatened to shoot her.

After the chaperone explained the group was dropping off an anonymous thank you card, Rowland told the group never to approach his property again. He then let them go. He admitted to holding the woman at gunpoint.

The Bingham County sheriff is being charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and misdemeanor exhibition of a gun. He has been told he can keep his job. If the charges are true, that determination is unfathomable to many.

(Video Credit: KIFI Local News 8)

“Consider the strength of the state’s case here,” said Jeff Nye, the lead deputy attorney general for the state office, when he requested Rowland’s guns be surrendered, according to The Hill. “There are eight eyewitness accounts of the defendant’s conduct that night. They are not only consistent with each other, they are also corroborated by confessions the defendant made.”

The case was splashed across national headlines after Rowland disparaged the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe’s Fort Hall reservation in a statement while attempting to defend his actions. The tribe has demanded his resignation over the incident. The sheriff claims that he has received threats over the last few months and was worried about individuals coming to his home.

The members of the church group were reportedly not part of the tribal community.

“I have been doing this job for 36 years, I’ve had drunk Indians drive down my cul-de-sac, I’ve had drunk Indians come to my door,” Rowland asserted, according to his affidavit that was released by state prosecutors. “I live just off of the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people.”

“Rowlands [sic] use of racial slurs about ‘Indians’ is extremely offensive,” Fort Hall Reservation Chairman Devon Boyer declared in a statement on Facebook.

“Local law enforcement has a long history of violent criminal conduct towards tribal community members, stemming back decades. Race relations between local law enforcement has been controversial and sometimes violent,” Boyer charged.

The mayor of Blackfoot and the county prosecutor have both called for Rowland’s resignation.

“A trusted Law Enforcement officer has admitted to physically assaulting a neighbor and threatening her with his service handgun,” Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll proclaimed while calling for his badge, according to the New York Post.

“I would hope that our current sheriff would again consider resignation as an option to allow Bingham County to begin the healing process,” Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers put forth in a statement. “(At) some point the damage to the Sheriff’s Office becomes irreparable regardless of the outcome of the newly-filed case.”

Rowland made his first court appearance Wednesday. That was when Judge Faren Eddins made his pronouncement. There was also a request that the sheriff take an extended leave of absence before being allowed to resume his duties. The judge ruled against that request, asserting that Rowland was innocent until proven guilty, but did take his weapons away.

The accused sheriff took some time off after the incident in November but has returned to his job recently.

His next appearance in court is scheduled for Jan. 6.


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