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Arrest warrant issued, suspect named in killing of Eureka priest

Crime, Law and JusticeHomicideCrimeLaw EnforcementNew Year's Day

Eureka police issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a man in connection with the killing of a popular priest who was found dead in the church rectory.

Officials are seeking Gary Lee Bullock in connection with the killing of the Rev. Eric Freed, whose body was found inside St. Bernard Church on New Year's Day after he failed to show up for a Mass.

Police have so far declined to reveal how Freed was killed or in what condition his body was found, saying only that it was a violent crime.

Bullock was arrested for being drunk in public on New Year's Eve, according to Eureka police, but the jail refused to take him because of elevated blood pressure and erratic behavior. He instead was sent to a hospital for medical evaluation.

“He was being confrontational too,” said Mary Kirby, an assistant to Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills. 

He was then jailed, held for several hours and released on New Year’s Day. Later that day, someone matching Bullock’s description was seen by a security guard in the area of St. Bernard Church and was told to leave, according to police.

In addition to Bullock, Eureka police are also searching for Freed's car, described as a gray Nissan Altima hybrid.

Mills has warned anyone who may see the car, with the license plate 6NDW400, not to approach it but to instead call police. Mills has also sought to reassure residents that his department was tapping "every resource possible" for the investigation.

Freed's death stunned the city. He was described in local media accounts as being popular and well-liked, particularly in the Japanese community, where he was active.

At a news conference Wednesday, Eureka Mayor Frank Jager called Freed's death "absolutely a tremendous loss, not only for the St. Bernard’s parish, but for our community in general.”

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christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Twitter: @cmaiduc

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