PHOENIX (AP) — A badly injured priest managed to administer last rites to his dying fellow clergyman who was fatally shot in a nighttime attack at their Roman Catholic church in downtown Phoenix as police rushed to the scene after the man also called 911.
Authorities had no suspects or solid leads as of Thursday afternoon. They searched the neighborhood, interviewed the injured priest and examined physical evidence from the scene. Investigators said they are unsure how many attackers were involved or if robbery was the motive.
A 2003 Mazda belonging to the Rev. Kenneth Walker, who died late Wednesday at a hospital, was found abandoned a few blocks from the church. Police were investigating whether the suspect or suspects took the vehicle and left it behind after the crime. Authorities were examining the vehicle for clues.
Police Chief Daniel Garcia called the attack a “tragic and appalling criminal violation.”
As police investigated the crime scene at the church, about a dozen parishioners gathered across the street, kneeling on the sidewalk and reciting the rosary in response to the loss of their beloved clergyman. A bouquet of flowers and a photograph of Walker, 28, lay on the sidewalk.
The Rev. Joseph Terra, 56, was hospitalized in critical condition with unspecified injuries. The two priests lived at the church.
Terra called 911 to report a burglary at the Mother of Mercy Mission near the state Capitol around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and administered last rites to the wounded Walker while waiting for police to arrive.
The Rev. Fred Adamson, vicar general of the Phoenix Diocese, said the act brought a “great deal of comfort and consolation to us as Catholics that he was able to extend that in his own suffering.”
Deacon Jim Trant, of the Diocese of Phoenix, speculated that the suspect or suspects may have just knocked on the church door, and the priests let them in.