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An Idaho sheriff faces calls to resign after allegedly aiming a gun at church teens

Bingham County, Idaho, Sheriff Craig Rowland faces criminal charges for allegedly aiming a pistol at members of a church youth group.
Bingham County Sheriff's Office
Bingham County, Idaho, Sheriff Craig Rowland faces criminal charges for allegedly aiming a pistol at members of a church youth group.

Local officials in southeastern Idaho are calling on Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland to resign after he allegedly aimed a pistol at members of a church youth group and pulled their leader out of a car by her hair.

Rowland later told investigators he was concerned about "drunk Indians" from the nearby Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation.

Tribal leaders have condemned Rowland's language as racist.

On Nov. 9, children in Blackfoot, Idaho, were going door-to-door leaving anonymous thank-you messages for people in the community.

After kids tried to tape a note to Rowland's door, he later confronted them and stopped the car of their church leader, allegedly using profanity and threatening them with a handgun.

According to local press reports, Rowland also allegedly grabbed the driver of the car by her hair and pulled her out of the vehicle.

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Rowland, age 62, has since been charged with felony aggravated battery and and assault as well as a misdemeanor charge related to exhibition of a deadly weapon.

He is expected to enter a plea at a court appearance on Wednesday.

The confrontation began drawing national attention over the last week after an affidavit was made public by the Idaho state attorney general's office.

According to investigators, Rowland told them he was concerned about members of the Shoshone-Bannock 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 said, according to the affidavit. "I live just off of the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people."

Tribal leaders condemn sheriff's comments as "racial slurs"

Last week, leaders of the Shoshone-Bannock condemned what they described as "racial slurs."

"We ask Roland to officially step down as sheriff and offer a public apology," tribal Chairman Devon Boyer said in a statement posted to Facebook.

Shoshone-Bannock officials said none of the children or adults involved in the Nov. 9 incident were tribal members.

In a separate statement, Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers also called for Roland to step aside.

"I would hope that our current sheriff would again consider resignation as an option to allow Bingham County to begin the healing process," Rogers said.

Members of a local police support group, the Fraternal Order of Police Snake River Lodge, issued a statement saying it "may be in the best interest of the community for Sheriff Roland to step down."

Other local officials condemned Rowland's "disparaging" language and his alleged behavior but stopped short of calling for his resignation.

Sheriff's office promises to strengthen ties with tribal community

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Bingham County Sheriff's Office didn't address the allegations against Chief Rowland directly.

Instead department officials promised to strengthen ties with the tribal community.

"All valuable relationships are built on mutual respect, confidence, and trust," the statement said.

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Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.