North Carolina–A major in the United States (U.S.) army has been arrested after allegedly threatening to kill Muslims at a local mosque during Ramadan, Islam’s holy month.
Authorities said on Friday that Major Russell Thomas Langford, a major in the U.S. army reserve, was accused of first approaching a Muslim chaplain outside the mosque and showing him his gun, then threatening to blow up that mosque, Masjid Al Madina mosque in Raeford, North Carolina. Later that evening, while members were gathered for the nightly Ramadan services, Langford allegedly attempted to run over a group of people walking inside for evening prayer. Langford has also been seen throwing two open packs of bacon at the door. Followers of Islam are prohibited from consuming pork products of any kind.
Langford was taken into custody and charged with ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, going armed to terror the public, communicating threats, stalking and disorderly conduct, according to a statement from the Hoke County Sheriff.
A Chevy Tahoe was in the parking lot when the bacon was found, and the driver of the Tahoe, later identified as Langford, followed one of the members home, the sheriff’s statement said. An investigation was started and several firearms, ammunition, and a number of additional weapons were located inside that Tahoe. He is being held on a $60,000 bond.
According to Capt. Eric Connor with the U.S. Army Reserves Command at Fort Bragg, Langford first enlisted in the Army in 2003 and served two tours of Iraq, one in 2004 and another in 2008. Langford has been awarded the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, as well as other theater service medals. He went off active duty in November 2008 and immediately went into the Army Reserve.
The national Communications Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said:
“We call on state law enforcement authorities and the FBI to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime. 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.”