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Former Army Reserve officer convicted in 2016 mosque threats charged in another alleged hate crime

Members of the Clovis, N.M., Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics team handcuff a U.S. airman during a hostile threat exercise at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., June 20, 2012. (Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece/U.S. Air Force)

A former Army Reserve officer convicted of a federal hate crime for threatening members of a Hoke County mosque in 2016 has been arrested again — this time in Moore County where he’s accused of disrupting a Juneteenth event.

Russell Thomas Langford, 41, is charged with ethnic intimidation, injury to personal property and littering in a June 19 incident at Cardinal Park in Pinebluff.

According to the arrest warrant, Langford damaged a wooden gate and threw Trump bumper stickers from his vehicle as hundreds attended a Juneteenth celebration at the park commemorating the U.S. emancipation of slaves.

In a sworn affidavit filed June 21 by park manager Mitchell Capel, Capel alleged that Langford drove through the event “waving” his middle finger at people, used ethnic slurs, and that he discharged firearms nearby then returned to the park, tossing bumper stickers in support of former President Donald Trump out the window as he drove through.

Langford’s Prosperity Lane home is less than two miles from the park, according to property records.

“Upon leaving he backed into the gate post twice causing damage,” wrote Capel, whose late father Felton Capel founded the privately owned, lakefront park off U.S. 1 in 1962.

Moore County court records show that Langford was arrested July 3. He’s since been released on $75,000 bail posted by a bondsman, according to The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines.

In November 2016, Langford was an Army Reserve major living in Fayetteville when he pleaded guilty to obstruction by force or threat of any person exercising their religious beliefs.

According to a news release from the Department of Justice, on June 14, 2016, Langford followed a member of the Masjid Al Madina Mosque in Hoke County home and back to the mosque, threatened to kill two Muslim members on the mosque premises, and pointed a firearm at one of them.

When he returned to the mosque again that night, he was stopped by several members, who called law enforcement, the release said.

The Hoke County Sheriff’s Office said deputies found “several firearms, ammunition and additional weapons” in Langford’s Chevy Tahoe parked outside the masjid and witnesses reported the Tahoe was at the mosque when someone left packages of bacon outside.

“During his multiple contacts with members of the Masjid Al Madina Mosque, Langford repeatedly referred to mosque members using derogatory anti-Muslim terms,” the DOJ news release states. “In pleading guilty, Langford admitted that he acted intentionally to threaten the mosque’s members and obstruct their religious exercise.”

Langford was sentenced to eight months of home confinement, three years probation and a $2,000 fine.

Following the sentencing, Langford’s mother said her son, a Bronze Star recipient, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Langford served in the military from May 2003 to September 2019, with a tour in Iraq from May 2007 to April 2008, according to U.S. Army Reserve records. He was promoted to the rank of major in 2015, the record states.

In an interview with The Pilot on Friday, Capel, whose father helped integrate Moore County schools and was the first Black person elected to the Southern Pines Town Council, said he felt compelled to report the incident because it was a hate crime.

“I never thought in a million years that I’d still be fighting the same battles that my father and our ancestors fought,” Mitchell Capel said.

The Capel family has ties to Fayetteville too.

Felton Capel’s contributions to Fayetteville State University were recognized when the newly built Felton J. Capel Arena was named in his honor in 1997.

Capel, who died at age 91 in 2018, had been a volunteer and financial supporter of the historically Black college and served as chairman and member of the FSU Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1987. He was also vice-chairman and member of the FSU Foundation Board of Directors for more than 10 years, according to a profile on the school’s website.

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