Only hours after tea party-backed Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) released a statement warning that radical Islam was trying to “kill Amerians,” police say that shots from a “high-velocity air rifle” narrowly missed a security guard at the Muslim Education Center near Chicago, while about 500 Muslims prayed inside during Ramadan services.
According to a statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the FBI was investigating a possible hate crime after David Conrad was arrested for firing at least two shots into the the mosque.
A press release from Morton Grove police said that off-duty police officers working as security guards saw someone firing shots from Conrad’s home. The release indicated that a high-velocity air rifle had been confiscated from the home.
Security guards told police that there had also been “a number” of other incidents of mosque damage that had not been reported.
“Due to the sensitive nature of the incident and with the previous criminal damage there, we contacted the Cook County state’s attorney’s office,” Morton Grove police Chief Mark Erickson explained. “We have a safe community here and we’ll ensure that a complete and thorough investigation will continue until this matter is resolved.”
Conrad had reportedly attended community meetings in 2003 and 2004 to oppose the mosque, neighbor Berdella Wehrmacher, 90, told the The Chicago Tribune.
“We fought to keep it away, not because it was a mosque but because they took away our park,” Wehrmacher insisted.
Kamran Hussain, vice president of the Muslim Community Center of Chicago, which owns the mosque, said that Conrad had been involved in a number of disputes over the years.
“He’s always been a thorn in our side,” Hussain told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Conrad was arrested on Saturday and charged with three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, a class X felony. He also faces one count of criminal damage to property, a class 4 felony.
Although CAIR had indicated that the incident was being looked at as a hate crime, FBI spokesperson Joan Hyde told the Chicago Tribune that the agency was not investigating.
“The matter is being handled by the locals,” Hyde said.
“It should be. It is a hate crime,” Mosque president Mohammad Aleemuddin remarked to CBS Chicago.
Hours prior to the shooting, Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh had warned that radical Islam was “a real threat.”
“One thing I’m sure of is that there are people in this country – there is a radical strain of Islam in this country – it’s not just over there – trying to kill Americans every week,” Walsh said during a town hall meeting. “It is a real threat, and it is a threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11.”
“It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here,” he remarked, adding that the next 9/11 attack was “not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”
CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab accused Walsh of trying to target the Muslim community.
“Rep. Joe Walsh’s comments are consistent with the rise of the radical right and the insistence by some in the Republican party that Americans should be suspicious and fearful of fellow Americans – including Walsh’s own constituents – who are of a different faith,” Rehab said in a statement.
“Such indiscriminate vilification is not unrelated to the rise in hate crimes and acts of vandalism we are seeing today. 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.”
Watch this video from WGN, broadcast Aug. 12, 2012.
Watch this video from CBS Chicago, broadcast Aug. 10, 2012.