RAEFORD, N.C. (AP) — An Army Reserve officer left bacon at a mosque and brandished a handgun while threatening to kill Muslims and "bury them behind the mosque," North Carolina authorities said Friday.
The series of threats began Thursday afternoon when members of the mosque in Raeford noticed open packages of bacon near one of the entrances, according to a Hoke County Sheriff's Office news release.
Advocacy groups say pork is often used to insult Muslims because their religion doesn't allow them to eat it.
Members of the Masjid Al Madina mosque saw a Chevrolet Tahoe leaving the parking lot, and the vehicle later followed one of them home. The person tried to evade the car but couldn't.
Later the suspect, Thomas Russell Langford, 36, was back at the mosque about 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville and made death threats, authorities said. No injuries were reported in the news release.
"He told people at the mosque that he would kill them and bury them behind the mosque," said Capt. John Kivett of the Sheriff's Office. "He brandished a weapon while he was on the property. He brandished a handgun."
Kivett said that Langford was a major in the U.S. Army Reserve.
A mugshot of Langford shows him wearing a green shirt with a military-style rifle on it, along with close-cropped hair and a prominent tattoo resembling the U.S. flag on his right forearm.
Authorities found several handguns and other weapons, along with 500 rounds of ammunition in Langford's vehicle, Kivett said. He said Langford didn't make specific threats about a mass shooting other than to say he wanted to kill mosque members.
Langford, who lives in Fayetteville, was charged with ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, going armed to terror the public, communicating threats, stalking and disorderly conduct, the sheriff's office said.
He was taken to the Hoke County jail.
The threats come during the holy month of Ramadan. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said the act constituted a desecration of the place of worship.
The group issued a statement saying: "bigots often use pigs or pork to offend Muslim sensibilities."
The council said the man Langford followed home was himself a Muslim chaplain at Fort Bragg. Kivett said that resulted in the stalking charge. A message left for a man identified as the victim by mosque members wasn't immediately returned.
The Washington group asked authorities to investigate the case as a possible hate crime and increase patrols around the area, especially during nighttime Ramadan activities.
A patrol car was parked at the mosque Friday ahead of noon prayers.
Drew reported from Raleigh. Also contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed in Raleigh and Jack Jones in Columbia, South Carolina.