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Priest killed, second hurt in Phoenix church burglary

PHOENIX — A priest was shot and killed and another was injured at a Roman Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, setting off an intense search for suspects and clues.

The surviving priest called 911 to report a burglary at the Mother of Mercy Mission near the state Capitol about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Rev. Kenneth Walker died at the hospital, and the Rev. Joseph Terra, 56, is hospitalized in critical condition with unspecified injuries.

Police have no suspects, and they are searching the neighborhood, interviewing the injured priest and examining evidence from the scene. Investigators said they are unsure how many attackers were involved and whether robbery was the motive.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia called it a "tragic and appalling criminal violation."

As police investigated at the church, about a dozen parishioners gathered across the street, kneeling on the sidewalk and saying the Lord's Prayer. A bouquet of flowers and a photograph of the dead priest lay on the sidewalk.

Parishioner Diane Harmon sobbed as she spoke of Walker and Terra and the "senseless acts of cruelty" that were carried out.

"They will be truly missed in this parish. Very peaceful people, very peaceful men, loving, kind and charitable," Harmon said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the city was shocked and saddened as police pleaded for the public's help in identifying the suspects.

"The tragedy that occurred last night at the Mother of Mercy Mission church strikes at our core because every American should feel safe in a house of worship — and that basic value was violated last night in an unspeakable way," Stanton said.

Terra and Walker, 28, served as pastor and assistant pastor, respectively, and they both lived in the church.

Priest killed, second hurt in Phoenix church burglary 06/12/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 8:19pm]
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