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89-Year-Old Priest Beaten In Front Of East Palo Alto Church, Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

EAST PALO ALTO (CBS SF) – An elderly priest was assaulted with his own cane in the parking lot of an East Palo Alto church earlier this week by a suspected methamphetamine user.

Juan Perez, 41, approached 89-year-old priest John Coleman, who was walking with a metal cane in the parking lot of St. Francis De Assisi Church at 1425 Bay Road just before 10 p.m. Monday, according to the district attorney's office.

Perez allegedly knocked the priest down, took his cane and beat him with it until it broke, prosecutors said. It appears he did not know the victim and there was no reason for the attack.

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"I thought I was a goner.  All of a sudden this man appeared right there, and very aggressive, yelling, he grabbed me," Father Coleman said.

Bystander Jose de la Torre tried to stop the beating, but Perez allegedly hit him with the cane as well. He took off running and two brothers chased after him.

"I couldn't believe how quick he moved and tackled him," Father Coleman said.

Perez swung the cane at both brothers but they managed to subdue him until police arrived, prosecutors said.

None of the victims were seriously injured and suffered only bruises and minor lacerations. They were treated at the scene.

Perez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of elder abuse, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to return to court July 27 for a preliminary hearing.

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He remains in custody on $175,000 bail, according to prosecutors.

Father Coleman hopes the man who attacked him is able to get some help.

"I would rather have him go to treatment than incarceration.  Get some psych help," he said.

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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