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Craig Rowland: Local officials call for the Idaho police chief to resign after he allegedly made disparaging comments about Native Americans

What happened next outside the home of Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland brought the tiny Idaho community into the spotlight of the nation. The police chief is facing calls to resign following allegations stemming from an incident in which he allegedly pointed a gun at his longtime neighbor and then during interviews with police officers. The investigation is said to have made disparaging remarks about Native Americans.

The incident took place on the night of 9/11 in the town of Blackfoot, Idaho. The seven girls personally traced and cut paper turkeys with a message listing “why they are grateful to certain people,” according to the affidavit. The plan was to stick the turkey on the recipient’s front door, ring the bell and flee before they were seen, according to the affidavit.

But when two of the girls tried to deliver a paper turkey, the sheriff walked out of the house with a gun drawn, according to the affidavit.

The group’s chaperone Chelsea Cox, who also lives on Rowland Street, was told by the girls that the sheriff had seen them, and that they could not deliver the cards without being arrested, according to the affidavit. Soon after, Cox told investigators, she saw Rowland trying to wave down with a gun in his other hand.

As Rowland approached the car, Cox opened the door, and she told him they were “coming here to send something to Lisa,” the sheriff’s wife, the affidavit said. Cox told investigators Rowland then pointed a gun at her and two young girls in the passenger seat and told her to “get out of the car.”

As Cox pulled into the parking lot, Rowland approached her and grabbed and pulled her by the hair while ordering her to get out of the car again, according to the affidavit. He then allegedly pointed a gun at Cox and asked what she was doing. When she tried to answer him, the affidavit said that Rowland, “screamed that he could or would shoot Cox.”

Rowland first appeared in court Wednesday morning on two counts – more felony and aggravated assault – in addition to misdemeanor, exhibiting or using a deadly weapon. Rowland has yet to issue a plea but will make a preliminary appearance on December 29.

Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland

Rowland’s attorney Justin Oleson said that upon appearance, prosecutors will present their evidence to the magistrate judge, who will then determine if there is enough to continue the case. “Probable affidavits are someone’s interpretation of what they have heard others say and are not necessarily accurate or complete recounts of events,” he said. “.

According to that affidavit, Rowland told investigators in an interview that he believed the people he saw might have vandalized the neighborhood, and he said that at any moment his finger was pulled the trigger of the gun.

Rowland and his wife also told investigators, according to the affidavit, that they received threats: a former inmate discussed with Rowland’s wife in a grocery store and Rowland became harassing target of another local resident.

In detailing the threats, Rowland allegedly made disparaging comments to Native American investigators.

“I’ve been in this business for 36 years, I’ve had drunk Indians drive down my street, I’ve had drunk Indians come to my door, I live instantly, we had a lot of Rowland telling investigators they weren’t good people, they committed a crime, we caught them, and so on and so forth.

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

“It’s a descriptive term; it’s not meant to be racist against that type of person,” says Oleson.

Many calls for the police chief to resign

In the weeks since the incident, there have been multiple impulses for the elected police chief to resign, including from the local police union and the mayor. Talking to local mediaBingham’s three county commissioners all condemned the comments, but stopped short of calling for his resignation

Rowland told investigators that although he drank alcohol with dinner that night, the affidavit states that he said the recent daylight saving time change had “really confused me.”

Oleson confirmed that Rowland was “away from the office for a period of time to allow the investigation to take place,” but has returned to work as sheriff.

The only way Rowland can be removed from office if he doesn’t resign is by recalling him, according to Idaho’s constitution. Approximately 20% of Bingham County residents registered to vote in the last general election will need to sign a form requesting that a special recall election be held. In that special recall election, a simple majority would need to vote in favor of recall to remove Rowland from office.

The Shoshone-Bannock tribe, who live in the Fort Reserve – which Rowland alluded to in his alleged comment – released a statement on December 16, saying the sheriff’s comment was extremely insulting.

“We ask that Rowland formally resign as Sheriff and issue a public apology to the Fort Hall community.” Chairman Devon Boyer said.
Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers told Bingham News Chronicle he hopes Rowland considers resigning “to allow Bingham County to begin the healing process and allow officers and the County to continue safely and effectively.”

CNN has reached out to Rogers for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

The Snake River Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #35, 125 members of staff working at five law enforcement agencies in the Bingham County area, including the sheriff’s office, joined calls for Rowland to resign, said it was frustrated by the incident.
The mayor of Blackfoot, Idaho, the county seat of Bingham, also call for resignation.

“His comments do not reflect the attitudes of the City nor the Blackfoot Police Department toward our neighbors at Fort Hall,” Mayor Marc Carroll said in a statement.

Oleson said the lawsuit 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 calls to resign were “really political jokes” and “politicians at work.”

Cox is the sheriff’s ‘best friend’

According to the probable cause affidavit, Rowland told Blackfoot Sheriff Scott Gay that on November 9, he was confronted with a vehicle after he said two people approached his home.

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

Rowland later said he grabbed the driver by the hair and pulled them out of the vehicle, according to an excerpt of the report mentioned in the probable cause affidavit. He asked her, “who are you, what are you doing,” several times, according to the affidavit, until the driver identified himself as his 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 had been a close friend of the family for 30 years, and that Cox not only grew up in the house next to the sheriff but lived far away from him.

Oleson said that Cox was like the sheriff’s daughter, and he talked to Sheriff Blackfoot because he was upset and thought, “Oh, I was wrong and I think I did it for the family. his fear.” He also told CNN that Rowland has been talking to Cox since the incident.

“Sheriff Rowland raised the gun and pointed it at Cox’s head while holding the gun about 2 inches from her forehead,” the affidavit read.

Cox told investigators, according to the affidavit.

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

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

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