PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix police on Monday said they had made an arrest in the killing of a Roman Catholic priest and the beating of a second priest at a church in the city’s downtown.
Police spokesman Sgt. Steve Martos announced the arrest but provided few details, other than the man was booked on homicide and other charges after being linked by forensic evidence to the attack. He said more information would be released later in the morning.
The priests were attacked in the rectory of the Mother of Mercy Mission Wednesday night. The Rev. Kenneth Walker, 28, was shot and killed and the Rev. Joseph Terra, 56, was badly beaten. Terra was able to give Walker last rites after the assault.
Police said Terra gave them a brief description of the suspect and detectives said they were running forensic tests on evidence collected at the scene of the assault and on one of the priests’ vehicle.
The vehicle was apparently driven away after the assault at the church near the state Capitol and recovered blocks away.
Police said last week that they were unsure if there was only one suspect or whether robbery was the motive in the attack. Martos declined to say whether there was forced entry.
Terra was moved out of a hospital intensive care unit Saturday night and is expected to make a full recovery. The Rev. Carl Gismondi, a pastor visiting from San Diego, conducted Mass at the priests’ church Sunday and said he had visited his fellow priest at a Phoenix hospital.
“He was in good spirits,” Gismondi said after the service.
Meanwhile, a requiem Mass was to be held at 10 a.m. Monday for Walker at another Catholic church in Phoenix.
Walker was born in upstate New York, had 10 siblings and was drawn to the priesthood after attending traditional Latin Mass with his family in high school. He later joined the seminary, made good grades and enjoyed playing soccer, said the Rev. Joseph Lee, academic dean at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska.
Walker eventually joined a Catholic order that specializes in Latin Mass and became a priest in downtown Phoenix. He recently officiated a younger sibling’s wedding in Kansas — the last time he saw many relatives.
Family members said they were overcome with emotion by the loss, but they took solace in the fact that the surviving priest was able to administer last rites.
“For Catholics, receiving your last rites basically guarantees you’re going to heaven,” Walker’s stepsister, Sasha Keys, told The Associated Press last week. “That’s one of the biggest reasons we have to smile.”