An Idaho sheriff is facing felony charges for allegedly losing it on a church youth group, pulling a gun on their leader and threatening to shoot.
Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland has been charged by the Idaho attorney general in connection with the Nov. 9 incident, which began when a Latter-day Saints youth group was delivering messages of thanks shaped like turkeys to those in their congregation, EastIdahoNews.com reports.
A group of seven girls between age 12 and 16, along with their adult chaperone, was handing out the “thankful turkeys” in Rowland’s neighborhood in the city of Blackfoot. The activity involved pinning the “turkey” notes to doors, and then ringing the occupant’s doorbell and running away, leaving them to find the message.
When the girls stopped at Rowland’s house, he allegedly told his wife to fetch him his gun because he was fearing a potential home invasion.
Even after finding the note on his door, Rowland is said to have assumed something nefarious was afoot and pursued a vehicle he saw taking off down the road.
“I reach in and pull the driver out by the hair,” Rowland was quoted as telling investigators, according to court documents cited by East Idaho News. “I say, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ And I do have a gun in my hand, but I still have my finger on the slide.”
The woman at the other end of Rowland’s gun was reportedly a longtime family friend who was supervising the youth group’s holiday activity, but he said he didn’t recognize her, according to the report. He is said to have admitted to consuming an alcoholic beverage that night but said he was not drunk, and that he ended up letting the group leave.
Members of the youth group offered a slightly different version of events, reportedly telling investigators Rowland had held his gun just inches away from their adult chaperone’s head before saying, “I will fucking shoot you.”
“It has been a very difficult experience for our child to go through, especially the confusion caused whenever the behavior of trusted adults seems harmful and unpredictable,” the parent of one of the children told East Idaho News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Rowland, who is due Dec. 22 for his first court appearance, still holds his position as sheriff but has taken a leave of absence pending trial. He faces charges of felony aggravated battery, felony aggravated assault, and misdemeanor exhibition of a gun.
When first questioned about the incident, Rowland reportedly admitted to Blackfoot police that he had “really screwed up,” but blamed his behavior on threats he said he and his wife had received that left him on edge—and Native Americans.
“I have been doing this job for 36 years,” Rowland was quoted as telling investigators. “I have had drunk Indians drive down my cul-de-sac. I’ve had drunk Indians come to my door. I live just off the reservation, we have a lot of reservation people around us that are not good people.”