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1 priest dead, another in critical condition after attack at Phoenix church

PHOENIX — A priest was shot to death and another seriously injured in an attack at a downtown Phoenix church Wednesday.

The Diocese of Phoenix identified the murder victim as the Rev. Kenneth Walker, 28, of the Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic church, near 15th Avenue and Monroe Street.

The Rev. Joseph Terra, 56, was brutally beaten and was in a hospital in critical but stable condition.

Terra had managed to call police to report a burglary. The priests were found in the rectory, the residential area of the property.

At a press conference, Mayor Greg Stanton said investigators were working around the clock to find the suspect or suspects. Police Chief Daniel Garcia said investigators had “strong physical evidence” to follow.

Police recovered an SUV stolen from the church about four blocks away. Sgt. Steve Martos tweeted out a description and within an hour the vehicle had been spotted.

Police have no suspects but the church is near several government buildings that have security cameras.

Parishioners arriving for early morning prayer Thursday were shocked and upset to see a crime scene.

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.

“It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what’s going on with humanity with people who would do this to somebody trying to help them. It’s so tragic,” said parishioner Ted Brudnicki, who had come for morning Mass.

Parishioner Bill Haley visited Terra in the hospital Wednesday night and said
the priest was in critical condition but able to talk.

“He said nothing evil about the person who did this, expressed no ill will,”
Haley recalled. “He expressed great concern about Father Walker, and I’m
concerned about the cross he’s going to have to carry now as a survivor of this
… He asked everyone to pray for him.”

Haley, who knew both priests well, joined others in prayer Thursday outside the

“He truly is a father, and he loves his parishioners deeply,” Haley said of
Terra. “He would care for both our spiritual as well as our physical good.”

Terra is a man with many talents, including woodworking and being a tailor, he

“He makes the vestments for every parish he’s been at and then he gives them
to the parish using his own resources,” Haley said. “He’s just a Renaissance

Walker, he said, was a “young priest full of energy” who loved baseball and
the outdoors.

He would learn the names of each new parishioner and would even visit some for
dinners at their homes, Haley said.

“He’ll just be sorely missed,” he said, his voice wavering as he choked back

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.

“They are truly concerned about the sanctity of souls and saving souls,” she
added. “It’s hard to imagine, but that’s unfortunately the society we’re living
in, a godless society. It’s lawless.”

KTAR’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this article.