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RAEFORD, N.C. — Officials said a man who was arrested and charged with communicating threats Thursday after a series of incidents at a Raeford mosque is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, WRAL reports.
Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said the man, identified as Russell Thomas Langford, of Fayetteville, had several firearms, ammunition and other weapons in his Chevrolet Tahoe during the incidents, which began around 4:30 p.m. at the Masjid Al-Madina mosque.
Langford was charged with ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, communicating threats, stalking and disorderly conduct, officials said. He received a $60,000 bond.
The incidents began when two employees found a bag filled with bacon at the entrance of the mosque, authorities said. Muslims have a religious prohibition against eating pork.
Then, following afternoon prayers, a man leaving the mosque said a man followed him to his home. Later, when the worshiper returned around 5:30 p.m., he said the person who followed him was at the mosque again.
Authorities said a retired Army captain, who is a Muslim chaplain at Fort Bragg, was approached by a man around 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the mosque. The man showed him a gun and said he wanted to blow up the mosque, according to the chaplain.
The chaplain said he asked the man to come inside and talk, but the man declined and left the area.
Officials said the man returned at about 8 p.m. and tried to run over a group of people in his SUV while worshipers were entering the mosque for their Ramadan evening prayer.
“We call on state law enforcement authorities and the FBI to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime,” said Ibrahim Hooper, of the Washington-D.C. Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We also ask local police to step up patrols in the area of this and other North Carolina mosques, particularly during the nightly activities associated with the ongoing fast of Ramadan.”
The president of Masjid Al-Madina said Thursday’s incident was the first act of violence at mosque and is thankful nobody was hurt.
Authorities said the investigation is ongoing. No additional information has been released.