Officials called on an Idaho sheriff to turn in his badge after he admitted to aiming a gun at a church youth group and yanking their leader out of her car by her hair last month.
The controversial incident happened on Nov. 9, when a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints girls’ youth group was going door-to-door in Blackfoot to leave “thank you” messages for community members.
A group of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 had placed a note on the door of Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland, 62.
As they were walking back to their chaperone’s car, Rowland waved down the driver with one hand while brandishing a pistol in the other.
Rowland then pointed the gun at the victim — who he had known for 30 years — and at two of the girls before demanding the woman “get the (expletive) out of the car,” The Idaho State Journal said.
The sheriff then allegedly pulled her out of the car by her hair while pointing the gun inches from her head and threatening to shoot.
After the woman explained the group was dropping off an anonymous Thanksgiving card, Rowland reportedly told the group never to approach his property again before letting them go.
He admitted to holding the woman at gunpoint and was charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault, according to the article.
After the girl’s youth group placed the thank you note on Sheriff Rowland’s door, he waved down their chaperone driver with one hand while brandishing a pistol. KIFI Local News 8
The case began getting national attention after it was revealed that Rowland told investigators he was concerned that the group might have been “drunk Indians,” a comment local Shoshone-Bannock tribal community leaders and elected officials condemned as racist.
“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 said, according to an affidavit released by state prosecutors, the newspaper reported. “I live just off of the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people.”
The members of the church group were not part of the tribal community, leaders said in a statement calling on Rowland to resign.
“Rowlands [sic] use of racial slurs about ‘Indians’ is extremely offensive,” Fort Hall Reservation Chairman Devon Boyer said in a statement on Facebook last week.
“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 said.
Last week, the mayor of the small city and the county prosecutor joined the chorus of calls 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 said, while calling for his badge.
“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 said 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 took a leave of absence after the incident but was back on the job several weeks ago.