Craig Rowland: Local authorities call on Idaho sheriff to resign after allegedly making derogatory comments about Native Americans


What happened next outside the home of Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland put the small Idaho community in the national spotlight. The sheriff faces calls for his resignation after charges stemming from an incident in which he allegedly pointed a gun at his longtime neighbor, and later in an interview with investigators he allegedly made derogatory remarks about Native Americans.

The incident took place on the night of November 9 in the town of Blackfoot, Idaho. The seven girls had hand-traced and cut out paper turkeys with messages saying “why they were grateful to certain people,” according to the affidavit. The plan was to stick the turkey on the front door of the recipient’s house, ring the doorbell and run away before they were seen, according to the affidavit.

But when two of the girls attempted to deliver a paper turkey, the sheriff came out of his house with a gun, according to the affidavit.

Chelsea Cox, the group leader who also lives down the street from Rowland, was told by the girls that the sheriff had seen them and that they could not hand over the card without being caught, according to the affidavit . Soon after, Cox told investigators, she saw Rowland trying to wave at her with a gun in her other hand.

As Rowland approached the car, Cox opened the door and she told him they were “just here to drop something off for Lisa,” according to the sheriff’s wife, according to the affidavit. Cox told investigators Rowland then pointed his gun at her and two young girls sitting in the passenger seat and told him to “get the fk out of the car”.

As Cox was about to put his car in the park, Rowland moved closer to her, then grabbed and pulled her hair while ordering her to get out of the car again, according to the affidavit. He then allegedly pointed the gun at Cox and asked her what she was doing. When she tried to answer him, the affidavit stated that Rowland “had cried out he could or would shoot Cox.”

Rowland first appeared in court Wednesday morning on two felony counts – aggravated bodily harm – in addition to one charge of misdemeanor, display or use of a deadly weapon. Rowland has yet to plead but will have a preliminary appearance on December 29.

Rowland’s attorney, Justin Oleson, said that at this appearance, prosecutors will present their evidence to an investigating judge who will then determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the case. “Probable cause affidavits are someone’s interpretation of what they heard someone else say and are not necessarily accurate or a full recitation of the facts that occurred,” he said. he declares.

According to this affidavit, Rowland told investigators in an interview that he believed people he saw might have surrounded the neighborhood, and he said at no time was his finger on the trigger. of his weapon.

Rowland and his wife also told investigators, according to the affidavit, that they had received threats: a former inmate had a discussion with Rowland’s wife at a grocery store and Rowland had been the target of alleged harassment by from another local resident.

In detailing the threats, Rowland is said to have made derogatory comments to Native American investigators.

“I have been doing this job for 36 years, I saw drunk Indians driving in my cul-de-sac, I saw drunk Indians come to my door, I live right next to the reserve, we have a lot of reserve people around us who are not good people, they, they committed crimes, we arrested them, etc., ”Rowland told investigators, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Oleson, who says he was present for the interview, said Rowland was not racist and the comments were “completely taken out of context.”

“It was a descriptive term; it wasn’t meant to be racial against those type of people,” Oleson said.

Calls multiply for the sheriff’s resignation

In the weeks following the incident, the sheriff-elect was pressured to resign, including from the local police union and the mayor. Talk to local media, the three Bingham County Commissioners all condemned the comments, but stopped before calling for his resignation

Rowland told investigators that although he drank an alcoholic beverage during dinner that evening, the affidavit indicates that he said the recent daylight saving time change had “really ruined” me.

Oleson confirmed Rowland took “some time away from the office to allow the investigation to unfold,” but is back on duty as sheriff.

The only way Rowland could be removed from office if he didn’t resign would be to recall him, according to the Idaho constitution. Some 20% of Bingham County residents who were registered to vote in the last general election are expected to sign a petition for a special recall election to take place. In this special recall election, a simple majority is expected to vote for a recall to remove Rowland from office.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, who live on the Fort Hall Reservation – to which Rowland alluded in his alleged remarks – released a statement on December 16, claiming the sheriff’s remarks were extremely offensive.

“We ask Rowland to officially step down as sheriff and to issue a public apology to the community of Fort Hall,” President Devon Boyer said.
Bingham County District Attorney Paul Rogers told the Bingham News Column he hopes Rowland will consider stepping down “to allow Bingham County to begin the healing process and allow the officers and the county to continue safely and efficiently.”

CNN reached out to Rogers for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

The Snake River Fraternal Order of Police Lodge # 35, whose 125 members work in five law enforcement agencies in the Bingham County area, including the Sheriff’s Office, have joined the appeal. on Rowland’s resignation, saying he was disheartened by the incident.
The mayor of Blackfoot, Idaho, the seat of Bingham County, also requested his resignation.

“His comments do not in any way reflect the attitude of the city or the Blackfoot Police Department towards our neighbors in Fort Hall,” Mayor Marc Carroll said in a statement.

Oleson says the case against his client was politically motivated and should never have been charged.

“It has nothing to do with what happened,” he said, adding that the resignation calls are “real political maneuvering” and “politicians at work”.

Cox was a “close family friend” of the sheriff

According to the probable cause affidavit, Rowland told Blackfoot Police Department chief Scott Gay that on November 9 he clashed with a vehicle after saying two people approached his house.

“He said he had his gun in his hand but no flashlight,” Gay wrote in a report to Idaho State Police. “He saw a vehicle coming back from the end of its road … he approached the vehicle on the road and stopped it.”

Rowland then said he grabbed the driver and pulled him out of the vehicle by the hair, according to an excerpt from the report mentioned in the probable cause affidavit. He asked her, “who the hell are you, what the hell are you doing” repeatedly, according to the affidavit, until the driver identified herself as her neighbor, Chelsea Cox .

CNN has reached out to Cox for comment but has not received a response.

Cox’s husband told investigators, according to the affidavit, that Rowland has been a close family friend for 30 years and that Cox not only grew up in the house next to the sheriff, but also lived next to him.

Oleson said Cox was like a girl to the sheriff, and he had the conversation with the Blackfoot Police Chief because he was upset and thought, “Oh, I fucked up and I think I scared a member of my family. ” He also told CNN that Rowland had spoken to Cox since the incident.

“Sheriff Rowland raised the pistol and pointed it at Cox’s head while holding the pistol about two inches from his forehead,” the affidavit said.

“That’s when I got really scared because the gun was still on my head and he didn’t know who I was,” Cox told investigators, according to the affidavit.

After asking her again who she was, the affidavit stated that Cox said she said “Chelsea” to him. The affidavit says Rowland told him never to do it again and that he could shoot him.

Authorities also interviewed the seven minors who were in the car at the time, all of whom appeared to corroborate the series of events Cox described.

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