A Eureka, Calif., parish is in shock after its popular Catholic priest was killed inside his church's rectory yesterday. Authorities today arrested Gary Lee Bullock in connection with the killing, reports the LA Times. Bullock had been arrested for public drunkenness on New Year's Eve with a blood-alcohol level so high that police sent him to the hospital; he was freed the following day, and someone matching his description was later seen near St. Bernard Church. When the Rev. Eric Freed didn't turn up for morning mass, a deacon went in search of him as parishioners waited. When the deacon returned, "he came in and said there was something terribly wrong with Father Eric," a witness told the Eureka Times-Standard.
Police found Freed inside the rectory. They provided no details on how he was killed but asked the public to keep an eye out for his gray 2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Bullock was pulled over while driving, but it was unclear whether he was in the priest's vehicle. "This is an absolutely tremendous loss not only for the St. Bernard's parish, but for our community generally," says the mayor, who called Freed a "tremendous person in this community." Freed also taught religious studies at Humboldt State University and ran a resource center for Catholic students and staff. "This was not some stuffy clergyman. He was very much someone that you could sit down and speak with," said a colleague.