Family turns in suspect in priest's death; Bullock scheduled for arraignment Monday

Will Houston


New details emerged Friday about the apprehension of the Redway man suspected of killing a popular priest during a violent struggle in the St. Bernard Catholic Church rectory on New Year's Day and his activities in the hours after his release from jail that morning.

Gary Lee Bullock, 43, was arrested Thursday afternoon near his family's home in Briceland, less than two hours after Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills announced that a warrant had been issued for him in connection with Rev. Eric Freed's death.

"A sheriff's sergeant called his mother at her home and learned that he was there," Mills said. __Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Lt. Steve Knight said Bullock's family was unaware there was a warrant out for his arrest.

"They had no idea he was wanted when we contacted them," Knight said. "The family was cooperating."

After learning of the warrant, Knight said Bullock's stepfather took Bullock in his car and drove him down Elk Ridge Road in Briceland to meet with sheriff's deputies.

"Bullock had no idea that law enforcement was waiting for him," Knight said.

Deputies made a traffic stop and took Bullock into custody on suspicion of homicide without incident at around 12:45 p.m. Custody was then transferred to EPD officers who met the deputies halfway between Garberville and Eureka, according to Knight.

Freed's missing Nissan Altima was also found in the vicinity of the house and was seized by the EPD, according to Mills.

Bullock was booked into the Humboldt County jail at 7:34 p.m. Thursday. His bail was set at $1 million, and he was expected to be arraigned Monday at the Humboldt County Courthouse.

Knight said the jail followed normal procedure when Bullock was released at 12:43 a.m. on Jan. 1, less than nine hours before Freed was found dead after he didn't arrive for a 9 a.m. Mass.

Knight said the sheriff's office was required to hold Bullock for a minimum of four hours, but they held him for twice that time after his public intoxication arrest in Garberville on Dec. 31. He was originally rejected by the jail due to his erratic behavior and taken to a local hospital for evaluation - where officials said he became agitated and had to be restrained by deputies - before eventually being booked at 4:34 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Knight said Bullock was released "on his own recognizance."

"There was no indication, at any time, that anything bad would happen," Knight said.

In the next few hours, Bullock was apparently contacted twice on the St. Bernard Catholic Church's grounds - which are within a few blocks of the jail.

The first was at 2:14 a.m. by an EPD office who responded to a report of a possibly drunk man who was "howling in the car lot" of the Nissan Dealership on Seventh Street, according to an EPD dispatch log.

After being removed from the lot by the caller, Bullock reportedly walked over and entered a bathroom at St. Bernard Catholic Church. The officer located Bullock and determined that he was not intoxicated. Bullock reportedly told the officer that he was looking for "HRC."

The EPD dispatch log indicates that Bullock was "advised against howling, and sent on (his) way" by the responding officer. __Mills said the officer referred Bullock to a nearby emergency homeless shelter.

Sometime in the later morning hours, a man matching Bullock's description was asked to leave the grounds by a church security guard.

Mills said the exact time of the break-in at the rectory and the assault on Freed is still unknown. His autopsy is scheduled for today.

Friends, colleagues, parishioners and his students at Humboldt State University, where he was lecturer in the Religious Studies Department, described Freed as a passionate man who lived the values he spoke about in his classroom and at the pulpit.

The Rev. Ron Serban of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Arcata said many priests have a catch-phrase they regularly use, and Freed's can help those suffering from his loss.

"His was, ‘do not lose hope,'" Serban told the Times-Standard last week. "Even with something as terrible as this, to not lose hope in God, in faith and in each other. Instead, seek healing and forgive."


The Times-Standard

A timeline of events leading up to the arrest of Gary Lee Bullock on suspicion of killing Father Eric Freed:

* Dec. 31, 2013

4:34 p.m. Bullock booked into jail on suspicion of public intoxication. Earlier, Humboldt County sheriff's office deputies respond to reports of a person acting strangely in the Garberville area of Southern Humboldt County. Humboldt County deputies located and arrested Bullock for public intoxication. Taken to jail, he was rejected due to erratic behavior, then taken to a hospital for evaluation. There, he became more agitated and had to be physically restrained by deputies, before being returned to jail for booking.

* Jan. 1, 2014

12:34 a.m. Bullock is released from jail.

2 a.m. Eureka Police Department officers dispatched to the St. Bernard parish office on reports of a suspicious person made contact with Bullock. Finding that Bullock was not intoxicated, and did not qualify for an emergency psychological hold, officers referred Bullock to an emergency shelter for the night. Some time later, a security guard investigates a noise on the church grounds and directs a man matching Bullock's description to leave the property after a short conversation.

9 a.m. St. Bernard Church parishioners gather at the church for Mass. When Freed doesn't arrive, Deacon Frank Weber looks for him. Officers are dispatched to the church rectory shortly thereafter, where they find Freed deceased. Freed's Nissan Altima is also reported missing.

* Jan. 2

11:30 a.m. The EPD announces an arrest warrant for Bullock has been issued in connection with Freed's murder. EPD chief Andrew Mills said Freed suffered blunt force trauma injuries, and there was forced entry into the parsonage where a violent struggle ensued. The exact cause of death has yet to be determined, and an autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

12:30 p.m. Bullock's family surrenders him to Humboldt County sheriff's office deputies in the Briceland area. Freed's Altima is found near a home belonging to one of Bullock's family members, EPD officials said.


1. Rev. Eric Freed


2. Gary Lee Bullock, who is suspected in the recent killing of Rev. Eric Freed, is led to a police car for transport to the jail after being surrendered to sheriff's deputies by family members at their Briceland area home on Thursday, according to chief Andrew Mills of the Eureka Police Department.

3. Gary Lee Bullock