Bullet hit Orland Mosque dome, Orland Park police confirm
Hunt for suspect(s) continues, police say
By Ray Hanania
Orland Park Police said they are aggressively investigating an apparent gunshot that penetrated the golden dome of the Prayer Center of Orland Park early Tuesday morning as about 40 members of the Mosque congregation were conducting their normal morning prayers, Fajr.
Orland Police Chief Tim McCarthy said the police have not yet recovered the bullet but said there is no doubt that a bullet penetrated the dome causing ceiling debris to fall onto the worshipers during their prayers.
McCarthy said his department has reached out to the FBI to assist in the investigation and that they are approaching the investigation as a potential hate crime, unless evidence surfaces that it could have happened accidentally.
“We are taking this very seriously. The safety of all the public is our ultimate concern. We don’t have a motive or a suspect yet but we are proceeding as if this were an intentional act,” McCarthy said in an interview Wednesday morning.
McCarthy said that one alternative possibility could be that the bullet was not intended for the Mosque, but he said they have no evidence to that affect. He said that there are about two incidents a year involving gun fire in the Southwest Chicagoland suburb, and in many cases it is someone who is involved in hunting and the bullet strays from the intended target.
“That does not make it any better. It’s wrong and dangerous. But we are looking at this as a potential hate crime until we see otherwise,” McCarthy said.
“Several months ago,
McCarthy said that the incident occurred around 6 am Tuesday just before sunrise, so it was dark outside at the time.
“We received a call from the mosque where some plaster and paint fell from the ceiling onto some of the worshipers there,” McCarthy, a highly decorated former U.S. Secret Service agent who was injured during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
“We came out there and were told that some people heard a gunshot at the same time. When we got there, we could see two locations where something came through the dome. We then examined the building from the outside, and we had to bring in a cherry picker to help elevate our investigation’s team to get close to the where the bullet struck the dome. We were able to get close and we are still working on bringing in equipment to get us right up to the point of the bullet impact. It is clearly a bullet though. There is no doubt.”
McCarthy said that the dome is very high and that the equipment used on Tuesday could not get investigators close enough to conduct a full probe to determine the direction of the bullet’s origination.
“The problem is we can’t get right up to the actual hole in the dome. We can get close enough. We would normally put a rod in there to determine the a direction of travel of the bullet. We want to confirm it. We consulted with the FBI and they are reviewing it with their squads now,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the mosque is under police protection and that he and his staff are working closely with the mosque officials.
“There hasn’t been an incident at the mosque since eight years ago, so this was surprising,” McCarthy noted.
McCarthy said that further south, a man who was practicing hunting had fired a weapon at a burm, a mound of dirt and grass, when one of his bullets missed and struck the window of a nearby business. That was at 184th and Wolf Road, he said.
“It was still dangerous and stupid, although it was not intentional,” McCarthy said. The intention is important, he said, because it impacts concerns and fears that local residents may have.
“So, we haven’t come up with the motive or the intent yet but we are investigating. We are treating it as if it was a bullet. There isn’t any doubt that is what it is. If the public has any information, we urge them to call us immediately. All calls would be treated confidentially.”
McCarthy says that the size of the bullet round would help determine the distance from which the bullet was fired, helping police to determine origin and cause and eventually intent.
Depending on the size of the round will determine how far away …
“The specific direction where the bullet came from is, right now, just speculation,” McCarthy said. “But we believe it probably came from the northwest.”
The Orland Park Police Department has reacted swiftly to all incidents involving suspected hate crimes and violence, and they have responded quickly and with concern to incidents targeting Muslims, community leaders said.
“We’re very grateful of the support we get from the Orland Park Police Department and from Chief Tim McCarthy,” one American Arab community leader said. “He has been very responsive. Very professional. We appreciate all that the police do to protect all of the residents in Orland Park.”
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist, and managing editor of the Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)