A U.S. Army Reserve officer faces charges of ethnic intimidation after allegedly leaving a package of bacon in front of a mosque and making death threats to its members.
The officer's lawyer is now calling to delay the hearing in order to investigate the incident more thoroughly, given the accused's distinguished record.
Russell Thomas Langford allegedly left a package of bacon in front of the Masjid Al Madina mosque in Raeford, North Carolina, during the holy month of Ramadan, according to Reuters. Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, and during Ramadan observant followers are not supposed to eat or drink anything during daylight hours.
Langford's car was seen nearby during the incident, and he later allegedly followed one of the members home. He then reportedly returned to the mosque in the evening and threatened to kill retired military chaplain Mohammed Khan, even going so far as to brandish a gun in his face. Langford left the scene but later returned in his car and allegedly tried to run over people entering the mosque.
Christian Today reports that Langford was arrested after the incident in June and released on a $60,000 bond. He is currently under the supervision of his command officer at the Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg.
He was charged with ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, going armed to the terror of the public, communicating threats, stalking and disorderly conduct.
In 2003, Langford enlisted in the U.S. Army and was deployed in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He was then transferred to Army Reserve and eventually earned the rank of major in 2015. He has since been serving at Fort Bragg. He has received a Bronze Star Medal, Army good conduct medal and various other achievement medals.
Langford's lawyer, Kelly Dawkins, said she hopes her client's prestigious background will convince the court to delay the hearing so the accusations can be investigated more thoroughly.
"Major Langford has served our country extraordinarily honorably," she said, according to Christian Today. "He is a Bronze Star recipient. I think he deserves ... all the due process we can give him.".
However, members of Masjid Al Madina said they believe his status as a Reserve officer should be looked at in a different light.
"For me and most of the American citizens at the mosque and in general, it actually is a reason why Major Langford should be held to a higher standard," said Uzma Khan, whose father was the one allegedly held at gunpoint by Langford. "Instead of being an excuse to see the situation in a lighter manner, I actually think it's more serious. He represents the states abroad. Part of defending the U.S. is also defending us."