A Fayetteville man has been ordered to serve eight months under house arrest for threatening members of a Raeford mosque last summer.
Russell Thomas Langford, 36, was sentenced Thursday in federal court, three months after pleading guilty to staking out the Masjid Al Madina Mosque on June 9, 2016, following one member home, then returning to the mosque and threatening to kill a different member and bury that person on the property.
As part of the plea agreement outlined by federal prosecutors on Nov. 7, Langford acknowledged multiple encounters with members of the Raeford mosque that day. Prosecutors said he used “derogatory anti-Muslim terms” in an attempt to “obstruct their religious exercise.”
Langford was arrested after Hoke County sheriff’s deputies responded to calls from the mosque and found “several firearms, ammunition and additional weapons” in Langford’s Chevrolet Tahoe parked outside the mosque.
Langford lived three miles from the mosque at the time of his arrest and was assigned to the G-33 Mobilization Section of the U.S. Army Reserve Command on Fort Bragg.
The congregation reported that Langford had been driving in the area much of the afternoon on June 9. That same day, according to law enforcement reports, two open packages of bacon were left outside one of the mosque entrances. Muslims consider pork impure. Members saw a silver Tahoe parked outside.
Shortly afterward, the Tahoe followed one mosque member as he drove home.
Later in the evening, the man in the Tahoe pulled into the parking lot and brandished a pistol during an encounter with a retired Fort Bragg chaplain who attends the mosque.
According to media reports at the time, a woman who identified herself as Langford’s mother said her son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Langford faced charges of ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon and stalking in a case that was investigated by the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. In his plea in November, he admitted to a felony for threatening mosque members in order to obstruct their free exercise of religious beliefs.
“The free exercise of religion is a foundational principle of our society,” Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Wheeler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Hateful threats designed to obstruct this right to religious freedom and to intimidate members of a religion simply because of their beliefs have no place in our communities. An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute crimes motivated by religious animus.”