The Fort Bragg Army Reserve officer charged after a series of threatening incidents Thursday night at a mosque in Hoke County is a decorated veteran of two deployments to Iraq, said an Army spokesman.
Maj. Russell Thomas Langford, 36, was arrested by Hoke County Sheriff’s deputies and charged with ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, communicating threats, stalking and disorderly conduct, according to a news release from the sheriff’s department.
Members of the Masjid Al Madina mosque in Raeford told investigators that they had found two open packages of bacon near a door of the mosque and noticed a Chevrolet Tahoe in the parking lot. Later a member of the mosque left, and noticed the SUV following him.
The driver of the SUV then returned to the mosque and threatened to kill worshippers, who called the sheriff’s department.
Investigators responded and found several firearms, ammunition and other weapons in the Tahoe, and arrested Langford, who lives on Sykes Pond Road in Fayetteville.
In Raleigh, Muslim community leaders first heard of the threats through an email from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, asking them to be vigilant in the event of similar offenses and offering assistance if needed, said Mohamed ElGamal, president of the Islamic Association of Raleigh.
ElGamal, in turn, offered support to the members of the Al Madina mosque.
"If they need any help, we'll definitely help them," ElGamal said. "Also, if people in any church, any temple, Jewish or of any other faith, were attacked, we would stand by them as well."
Langford is a Hoke County native, and a graduate of Appalachian State University, according to several media reports.
He had transferred to Fort Bragg in February, coming from a civil affairs unit based in Newport, R.I., said Capt. Eric Connor, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, where Langford works.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 with a unit of paratroopers from the Bragg-based 82nd Airborne Division. He went back to Iraq in 2008 with a military police unit from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Connor said.
He first joined the Army as an enlisted solider in 2003, and later went to Officer Candidate School.
Langford has earned several decorations, including the Bronze Star.
At Fort Bragg, even though he is a reservist, he works full-time at the U.S. Army Reserve Command in a department that helps process reservists who are being called into active duty, Connor said.
Pork is considered forbidden in Islam, and anti-Muslim extremists sometimes try to use it as a provocation.
The Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan began Sunday.
Langford posted a $60,000 bond and was then released from the Hoke County jail. Connor said that he was turned over to his commander who is waiting to learn the outcome of the civilian investigation to determine whether Langford will face any type of military discipline.