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Man charged with firing pellet gun at Morton Grove mosque

David Conrad / phofrom MortGrove police.

David Conrad / photo from Morton Grove police.

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Updated: August 13, 2012 3:16PM

A man who lives next to a mosque in north suburban Morton Grove has been charged after he allegedly fired a pellet rifle at the building while 500 people prayed inside.

David Conrad, 51, lives just east of the mosque and faces three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm, a class X felony, and one count of criminal damage to property, a class 4 felony, Morton Grove police said in an early Sunday press release.

Authorities began investigating after a 9 p.m. Friday night shooting, while worshippers were celebrating the holy month of Ramadan at the Muslim Education Center, 8601 N. Menard Avenue, according to police and mosque officials.

Off-duty Chicago Police officers, who been hired to provide additional security at the mosque during Ramadan activities, called Morton Grove police after they saw an object whiz by and hit the building just above the head of one of the officers, according to Kamran Hussain, Vice President of the Muslim Community Center of Chicago, which owns the mosque.

Hussain said this was not the first time parts of the building have been damaged, but it was the first time mosque officials had reported it to police. Erickson said the additional incidents -- described as broken windows -- were part of the current investigation.

Police confiscated a high-velocity air rifle outfitted with a scope, which was allegedly used in the incidents, the release said.

Conrad, of the 5700 block of Capulina Drive in Morton Grove, was arrested Saturday, according to police. He is scheduled to appear in bond court Monday.

Though the damage to the building was minor, there were about 500 people inside the mosque for prayers at the time of the shooting, Hussain said, adding that many kids from the congregation were outside of the building during the service.

One of the security guards saw someone firing the gun, with the shots coming from the home of a man who had previously spoken out against expansion of the school and mosque, Hussain said.

The man’s home abuts the mosque parking lot, which has been cause for a number of disputes between the building’s owners and the neighbor, Hussain said. He has lived there for about 12 years.

“He’s always been a thorn in our side,” Hussain said.

Morton Grove police and members of the FBI examined the building Saturday morning as the scene of a possible hate crime, according to a release about the incident from the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

However, Sunday’s press release did not mention any hate crime-related charges filed in connection with the incident.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment Saturday evening.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ national headquarters issued a community safety advisory for mosques earlier this week following crimes targeting Muslims in Missouri and Rhode Island, as well as the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

The mosque will continue to have additional security for the rest of the Ramadan month, Hussain said.

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