A 51-year-old man has been arrested for shooting at a Chicago-area mosque with a pellet rifle Friday, as hundreds prayed inside, authorities said.
David Conrad faces felony charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm and criminal damage to property after he allegedly took multiple shots at an outer wall of the Muslim Education Center mosque in Morton Grove, Ill., NBC 5 reported.
Police later seized a “high-velocity air rifle” at Conrad’s home, which is located just next to the mosque’s parking lot.
Nearly 500 worshippers were in the mosque at the time of the shooting celebrating the holy month of Ramadan.
“This last week of Ramadan is the holiest week of the year for Muslims, and the shots were fired at 8:30, a little after sunset, the busiest time of the day when Muslims come to the mosque to break their long day fast and pray together,” MEC President Dr. Mohammad Aleemuddin said in a statement released by the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations.
A security guard at the center was the first to hear the pellets hit the mosque, Morton Grove police Chief Mark Erickson told the Chicago Tribune.
“He was walking around outside and he heard this bang and he notified the police,” Erickson said.
No one was harmed during the shooting, though CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said that the pellets allegedly came within inches of the guard’s head.
The mosque has been damaged before, but those incidents, such as broken windows, were not reported, according to a statement released by Morton Grove police Sunday.
Kamran Hussain, Vice President of the Muslim Community Center in Chicago, said that this is not the first time the mosque has had a problem with Conrad, who has previously criticized plans to expand the school and mosque.
“He’s always been a thorn in our side,” Hussain told NBC 5.
Aleemuddin told CBS Chicago that he thinks Conrad should also be charged with a hate crime.
The incident came just hours after CAIR released a statement expressing concern that recent comments made by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) would increase targeting of Illinois Muslims, The Huffington Post reported.
At a town hall meeting in Elk Grove Village, Ill. last week, Walsh said that there’s “a radical strain of Islam in this country…trying to kill Americans every week,” describing it as a “real threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11,” according to CBS Chicago.
Rehab blasted Walsh’s comments in a statement released Friday.
“When elected officials, trusted by many, indicate that the enemy could be any Muslim living in your neighborhood, it gives rise to xenophobic vigilantism where fearful citizens target other Americans for simply looking different,” Rehab said.
Conrad is set to appear in court Monday.