Idaho sheriff accused of threatening youth group

BLACKFOOT, Idaho (AP) — An eastern Idaho sheriff has been charged with two felonies after state investigators accused him of threatening a church youth group with a gun.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office charged Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland with aggravated battery, aggravated assault and misdemeanor exhibition of a gun on Tuesday, EastIdahoNews.com reported. Rowland agreed to take a leave of absence shortly after the allegations arose in November, though he still retains his elected position as sheriff.

Rowland declined to comment Wednesday after EastIdahoNews.com asked him about the charges and his recounting of events.

In court documents, investigators with the Idaho Attorney General’s office wrote that a youth group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was participating in an activity Nov. 9 where they delivered thank-you notes to members of the congregation. The girls, aged 12 to 16, taped the notes to the church-goers’ doors and then rang their doorbells, running away before they could be seen.

Seven of the youth group members and an adult leader went to Rowland’s neighborhood to leave a note for the sheriff and his wife, according to the court documents. In separate interviews with investigators, members of the youth group and Rowland both reportedly said that after the group left the note, Rowland stopped their car from driving away, pulled the adult driver out of the vehicle by her hair and pointed his handgun at her head, yelling profanities at her.

Eventually Rowland went back to his home and the group was able to leave, according to the court documents.

The investigators said Rowland told them that threats had been made against him and his wife in recent months and he was worried about people coming to the home.

“I have been doing this job for 36 years,” Rowland said in a statement in which he also disparaged the people on a nearby Indian reservation, calling them “not good people” and saying their proximity was the reason for his actions.

Rowland is scheduled to make his first court appearance in the case on Dec. 22. He has not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea.