Priest shot dead, another wounded in Phoenix

Last Updated Jun 12, 2014 2:30 PM EDT

PHOENIX -- One priest was shot and killed and another was wounded in an attack at a Catholic church in downtown Phoenix, police said.

Sgt. Steve Martos said police received a call about a burglary at the Mother of Mercy Mission near the state Capitol shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday. Responding officers found two priests badly injured.

According to Martos, one of the priests had been shot and died at the hospital. The other priest is hospitalized in critical condition with unspecified injuries, he said. According to Martos, the injured 56-year-old priest was able to call 911 and direct authorities to the church.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia said Thursday that police are canvassing the area around the church and following up on physical evidence. Garcia said the attack is a "tragic and appalling criminal violation."

The attack occurred in the rectory. Investigators are still trying to determine if robbery was a motive, Martos said. Police are also unsure how many attackers were involved. They planned to discuss the attack at a news conference at 11 a.m. local time.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix on Thursday identified the slain priest as the Rev. Kenneth Walker and the injured priest as the Rev. Joseph Terra.

The Rev. Kenneth Walker, left, and the Rev. Joseph Terra, right flank Bishop Thomas Olmsted. Walker was shot and killed Wednesday night and Terra was badly injured.
Catholic Diocese of Phoenix/KPHO

Terra and Walker served as pastor and assistant pastor, respectively, according to the church website. They both belonged to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Church officials say Walker was 29 years old and asked for prayers for his family, as well as for "the health and complete recovery" of Terra.

The Rev. Fred Adamson said Terra, who is in critical but stable condition, was able to administer last rites to the 29-year-old priest.

Though he was able to call police, Terra was unable to provide much information about the crime, Martos told CBS affiliate KPHO.

"Hopefully, once that individual receives treatment and is able to pull through, we can gather more information," Martos said.

Police say they are unsure how many attackers were involved and if robbery was the motive.

KPHO reports that parishioners outside the church prayed the rosary with their hands clasped and heads bowed. One woman said Terra had recently baptized her baby.

Police found a 2003 Mazda Tribute believed stolen from the church about three blocks away. They towed it to begin processing it for fingerprints and any other evidence.

No suspects were in custody, Martos said, but "it's just a matter of time that we can locate these individuals."

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix released a statement Thursday morning on Twitter, saying it was "stunned and deeply saddened" by the attack.

Rorate Caeli, an online blog widely read in Vatican circles, said Walker was born in upstate New York near Poughkeepsie. He was the middle child among a family of 11 kids. He was ordained in May 2012.