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In this week’s glaring example of white privilege at work in real-time, a sheriff in Idaho who was criminally charged for pulling a gun on and apparently racially profiling kids in a church group has been allowed to keep his job. For now.
Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland was indicted earlier this month by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office for allegedly threatening a Latter-Day Saints youth church group who he suggested he feared could have been “drunk Indians,” according to the Idaho News. Instead, the group of seven girls and an adult chaperone was actually driving around Rowland’s neighborhood and placing “thank you” notes on residents’ doors, ringing doorbells and leaving before anyone answered.
When Rowland heard them from his home on that fateful night of Nov. 9, law enforcement officials say the off-duty sheriff went outside, stopped their car, brandished his gun, pulled the chaperone through a window and put the gun to the woman’s head.
On Wednesday, Rowland was ordered to surrender his gun, local news outlet KSL reported. However, the county’s top police official was not fired and defiantly resisted calls to resign. Fremont County Magistrate Judge Faren Eddins denied the prosecution’s request for Rowland to be placed on leave.
The 62-year-old is formally charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault — both felonies — and the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors apparently plan to use Rowland’s own words against himself.
Those words are likely to include a statement that suggested he racially profiled the youth church group.
“I have been doing this job for 36 years,” Rowland reportedly said following the incident. “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.”
There are also at least eight witnesses who can testify against Rowland in addition to a video that shows the sheriff looking at the cards the youth group members left at his door, which apparently prompted him to say, “Bull (expletive), get my gun.”
Rowland’s lawyer has described the legal investigation as a political witchhunt.
“All the attorney general is trying to do is try to remove Mr. Rowland from his position,” Justin Olesen argued in court.
A preliminary hearing ahead of a criminal trial is scheduled for late next month.
Rowland is facing more than 20 years in prison and fines of up to $56,000 if he’s convicted on all charges. Those numbers could increase significantly if prosecutors are successful in adding “firearm enhancements” to the existing charges, which would tack on up to 30 more years of prison time if Rowland is convicted of them.