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Blues prodigy accused of drunkenly shooting into house party pleads not guilty

Sacramento blues musician arraigned

Kyle Rowland is arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court in Sacramento on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. Kyle Rowland, a local blues musician and previous Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputy, allegedly opened fire at a house party early Friday mornin
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Kyle Rowland is arraigned in Sacramento Superior Court in Sacramento on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. Kyle Rowland, a local blues musician and previous Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputy, allegedly opened fire at a house party early Friday mornin

In front of a courtroom packed with his friends and family, Sacramento blues prodigy and former Contra Costa Sheriff’s deputy Kyle Rowland was arraigned Wednesday on charges he fired a gun at a Sacramento house party.

Formal charges of assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a loaded weapon with intent to commit a felony were read Wednesday afternoon. Rowland pleaded not guilty to the charges. His bail was set at $125,000 and his next court appearance is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 28. The judge said he could not ingest alcoholic beverages while out on bail.

Dozens of fellow musicians and supporters packed the hall outside the courtroom before the scheduled 1:30 p.m. hearing for Rowland, 23, a harmonica player and fixture on the local blues music scene since he was a child. Among them was Mick Martin, the local band leader and public radio host who has served as Rowland’s mentor.

People hugged outside the courtroom before the hearing began. Rowland’s father, Curtis Rowland, clutched a Bible and kept saying he hoped for the best. He declined to comment further.

Rowland attended the house party in the 1100 block of G Street early Friday. Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard said Rowland was “highly inebriated” at the party. He threw beer after being told to leave the gathering, Norgaard said. He came back with two firearms, one of them likely a duty weapon, around 2 a.m., Sacramento police said.

Norgaard said a military veteran noticed Rowland had a “stare and glare” look about him and people could see his weapon. Partygoers tried to talk to him and got him to the ground before he fired several shots, Norgaard said. Someone was able to take the magazine clip from the weapon, he said. Police said Rowland used one firearm to shoot several times, but no one was injured.

Matt McPhail, Sacramento Police Department spokesman, said Rowland was then bruised and bloody in the process. He was arrested and booked into the Sacramento County jail, McPhail said. A booking photo shows him with with a badly swollen and bruised eye and bloody facial abrasions.

Rowland is being held in the Sacramento County Main Jail, where he declined an interview with a reporter Wednesday.

Rowland’s attorney, Roxanne Mosely, said the musician is a “respectful member of the community” with no prior record.

Fellow musicians who befriended him over the years say they were shocked to hear of his arrest.

Jan Kelley, editor of the Sacramento Blues Society newsletter, said Rowland broke onto the blues scene at the Sacramento Music Festival when he was just 10 years old. Martin was on stage and spotted the young Rowland in the crowd, playing his harmonica as he stood on a chair, so Martin invited him on stage. Ever since then, Martin has advised and trained Rowland, Kelley said.

Rowland plays the harmonica and sings for the Kyle Rowland Blues Band, a local favorite that has frequented the Sacramento area since 2010. Biscuits and Blues Restaurant and Bar in San Francisco describes the band’s music as a “boisterous Chicago and swampy Texas blues with a pinch of West Coast swing.”

The band frequents the Torch Club bar on 15th Street and has played at the Sacramento Music Festival and the Woodbridge Winery for the Reds, Whites, and Blues Festival, among other events.

Rowland won the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame award for Best Blues Harmonica and Blues New Artist of the Year in 2009.

Rowland graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in 2011 shortly after his mother died from breast cancer, according to a graduation press release from that same year. He played the harmonica at the ceremony in her honor that year, according to a blog post written by C.K. McClatchy teacher Lori Jablonski. In her blog post, Jablonski said Rowland’s father was also a harmonica player, and introduced his child to the instrument while he was still in diapers.

Elisa Smith, a spokeswoman for California State University, Sacramento, said Rowland enrolled for one semester in 2015 with an “express interest” in criminal justice, but then dropped out.

Friend and fellow musician Petri Hawkins Byrd, best known for his role as the bailiff on the reality TV show “Judge Judy,” said he has always been impressed with Rowland.

Byrd, a Greenhaven resident when he is not filming in Los Angeles, said he met a 13-year-old Rowland at a Sacramento Music Festival and the two have been friends ever since. When Rowland was contemplating becoming a sheriff’s deputy, he often met with Byrd to get advice.

“Just like anything else he does, he puts himself into it and does well,” Byrd said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I admired him for fulfilling that dream.”

Rowland was working as a sheriff’s deputy at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department at the time of his arrest, but has since been dismissed. The department said Rowland joined in October and was on probation when he was let go. Officials declined to comment beyond the official press release.

“This whole thing comes as a shock,” Byrd said.

Jessica Hice: 916-321-1550, @JesserPea

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