PHOENIX - One Phoenix priest is dead and a second injured after an attack Wednesday night near 15th Avenue and Monroe.
Father Kenneth Walker, an assistant pastor, was shot and killed, while Father Joseph Terra, a pastor, was hospitalized. Phoenix police said one of the priests was shot and killed. The second priest has blunt force trauma and was taken to a local hospital, where he is in stable condition.
Walker used to work in Maple Hill, Kansas, according to the Kansas City, Kansas, archdiocese.
Sources tell ABC15 the scene was "gruesome" where the priests were attacked.
The Diocese of Phoenix released the following statement on Thursday morning:
We are stunned and deeply saddened to learn of the tragic assault perpetrated last night against Fr. Joseph Terra and Fr. Kenneth Walker, two religious order priests who belong to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.
Fr. Walker's life was taken. Fr. Terra remains in critical condition but stable.
The reported attack occurred at Mater Misericordiae Mission in Phoenix.
The police are still gathering information and trying to sort through the details of this senseless act of violence.
We ask that people offer prayers for both priests, the religious community, their families and the parish. Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.
The incident happened outside the Mother of Mercy Mission near 15th Avenue and Monroe, according to Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos.
@phoenixpolice investigating a homicide at a church property near 15th Ave & Monroe. Suspect/s at large. Anyone with info call 480-WITNESS— Steve Martos (@SgtMartos) June 12, 2014
Father Fred Adamson said Fr. Terra gave Fr. Walker his last rites as police arrived.
Martos said one of the victims made the call about the attack, which he described as a burglary.
Authorities said the suspect took off in a vehicle belonging to one of the priests. The vehicle was located a few blocks away from the scene at 17th Avenue and Taylor Street. Police will be processing the vehicle to look for any evidence.
Throughout the morning, parishioners gathered at the church. Some laid flowers and lit candles.
"You don't steal from priests," said parishioner Mary Frances. "They would give you anything. They would give you their own plate filled with food. This is senseless evil. Evil does exist."
"We were just here celebrating Father Walker's 2nd anniversary of his ordination," said Ted Brudnicki.
Frances tells ABC15 that she has been attending the Mass there for the past two years. She comes from Scottsdale and tells us that most people come from all over. It is a unique Mass because it is one of the only in the Valley that is all done in Latin.
Parishioners say the two men often helped people in the neighborhood and would have opened their doors to anyone in need.
It is too soon to tell if this was a random burglary attempt or if the two priests were targeted.
Authorities are continuing to search for a possible suspect(s) connected to the homicide, said Martos. Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.