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Arrest made in pellet rifle shots at mosque, Chicago police say

Police have arrested a 51-year-old man and seized a high-velocity air rifle in connection with pellet rifle shots that recently damaged a mosque in a northern Chicago suburb, authorities said Sunday.

Police said David Conrad of Morton Grove was taken into custody and investigators seized an air rifle outfitted with a scope as part of their probe of the shooting Friday night at the Muslim Education Center in that same suburb.

No one was wounded Friday, but a Muslim civil liberties group subsequently said the shots damaged an outer brick wall of the center shortly after worshippers observing the holy month of Ramadan broke their daily fast.

An email statement released early Sunday by Morton Grove Police Cmdr. Paul Yaras said Conrad had been charged with three felony counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one felony count of criminal damage to property.

It was not immediately known if Conrad has a lawyer. A bond hearing was scheduled Monday, police said, adding a subsequent Aug. 22 court appearance was planned.

The police statement gave few details and did not elaborate on the time or place of the arrest. But it said investigators found Conrad after being directed to an area just east of the Muslim Education Center property.

The statement also said police began investigating Friday night shortly after the initial report of the shots and had also called on the Cook County State's Attorney's office to aid in the investigation.

Morton Grove police, contacted by The Associated Press by telephone early Sunday, said they would have no further details immediately.

Previously, Morton Grove Police Chief Mark Erickson said Saturday a security guard at the center heard a projectile hit an outside wall of the building. Police were called, Erickson said, and the department began to investigate.

"This is obviously an alarming situation," said Ahmed Rehab, director of the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "The weapon allegedly used in this incident is powerful enough to kill, and the projectiles reportedly came within inches of the head of the security guard on duty."

The shots were heard by worshippers outside the center, which serves as both a mosque and a school.

The Muslim advocacy group said it believed the shots were fired by someone with a history of opposition to the mosque. It did not elaborate.

Erickson said police were told Friday night that windows at the mosque previously had been broken, but not reported.

The organization's national headquarters issued a community safety advisory earlier in the week for American mosques after other incidents targeting Muslim houses of worship in Missouri and Rhode Island and after the deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5.

In one of those incidents, a mosque in Joplin, Mo., previously targeted by an arsonist burned down. In Southern California, pig legs were left in the driveway of a house used as a place of worship pending construction of a mosque on the site in the city of Ontario -- an offensive act because Muslims regard pigs as unclean.

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