Raeford mosque offers forgiveness after alleged attack by Army reservist
Posted June 10, 2016
Raeford, N.C. — A man facing a hate crime charge after a series of incidents at a Raeford mosque Thursday is a major in the Army Reserve, authorities said Friday.
Hoke County authorities said the man, identified as Russell Thomas Langford, 36, of 1733 Sykes Pond Road in Fayetteville, had three loaded handguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and knives in his Chevrolet Tahoe when he was arrested late Thursday.
Langford is 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 was released from the Hoke County jail after posting a $60,000 bond but was placed in the custody of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Bragg.
It was unclear whether he was being detained by the Army or simply confined to post.
"It was very sad," Baser Abbasi, imam of Masjid al Madina mosque, said Friday. "That guy was very determined to do whatever he had in his mind."
The incidents began around 4:30 p.m. when two employees of the mosque, at 196 Pittman Grove Church Road, found packages of bacon that had been thrown at the back entrance, authorities said. Muslims consider pork to be impure and have a religious prohibition against eating it.
Following afternoon prayers, a man leaving the mosque said someone in a Chevy Tahoe followed him to his home, according to an application for a warrant to search the SUV. When the worshiper returned around 5:30 p.m., he said the person who followed him was at the mosque again.
Langford approached a retired soldier outside the mosque and told him he didn't belong in the country before displaying a revolver and telling the man, "I will kill you with this and bury you at the back of the mosque," the search warrant application states.
Authorities told WRAL News that the man is a retired Army captain who serves as a Muslim chaplain at Fort Bragg. They said the chaplain invited Langford inside the mosque to talk, but he declined and left the area.
Other members of the mosque, as well as an employee, identified Langford as the man who cursed at them and called them "piglets," according to the search warrant application.
When deputies were called to the mosque at about 9 p.m., Langford "attempted to drive away aggressively" as a mosque member stood in front of the Tahoe to prevent it from leaving, the warrant application states.
"He came back, tried to run somebody over, threatening others," Abbasi said. "He stood right there with kids and all that stuff and said, 'I'm going to come back and shoot everybody in the mosque.' Just like that."
"The kids were really terrified," Farida Yasman said. "They kept running here and there – 'Somebody is attacking us. We're going to die.' – so we were just trying to calm the kids down."
Yasman and other mosque members said the incident is especially hurtful because it occurred as she and other Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan.
"This month brings more peace and more harmony," she said. "This month teaches us about sharing and caring about other people, other religions, but things like this are happening."
A Raeford native, Langford earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Appalachian State University in 2002 before enlisting in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and 2008 and earned a Bronze Star among his other commendations. He has worked full-time for the Army Reserve since 2008.
His Facebook page depicts him as a loving husband and a doting father of a young daughter. A neighbor of Langford's said the allegations against him are out of character.
"You would never think that something like that would occur," Jenson McFadden said. "They seem to be well-mannered people in the neighborhood, well respected, and never had any issue."
Langford had no disciplinary issues in the Army, officials said, and his only criminal record has been three speeding tickets.
Abbasi said Masjid al Madina is a welcoming and forgiving place, and the congregation would accept Langford if he accepts them.
"Absolutely, we'll take him back and embrace him and do anything for him, but he has to change his mentality," the imam said.