Eureka, California police have stated that there was no reason to hold murder suspect Gary Lee Bullock, who was freed from custody just hours before slaying Reverend Eric Freed of St. Bernard’s Catholic Parish. Reverend Freed was found dead in the rectory of the church on New Year's Day, after missing morning mass.
Humboldt County Sheriff's Department defended the decision to let Bullock out of custody, citing that there was no serious criminal behavior committed, or any evidence of psychiatric problems. Lt. Steve Knight commented, "This was standard practice," adding that, "It was truly a tragic, tragic event that this happened after the fact. Unfortunately, we release people from our jail because we have to, and they go commit other crimes. There was no indication of anything unusual here."
Police Chief Andrew Mills stated, "In this, I am satisfied our officers did what they could do, given the parameters of the law. The question becomes could we have done other administrative things such as taken him over to the shelter. Would that have been reasonable? We'll have to wrestle with these questions."
According the the Eureka Police Department press release concerning the murder:
On Dec. 31, 2013 BULLOCK was the subject of a radio call regarding a person who was acting strangely in the Garberville area of southern Humboldt County. Humboldt County deputies located and arrested BULLOCK for public intoxication. He was taken to jail where he was rejected due to his erratic behavior.
BULLOCK was then taken to the hospital for evaluation where he became more agitated and had to be physically restrained by deputies. BULLOCK was ultimately booked into jail at 1634 hours.
Gary BULLOCK was released at 0043 hours on January 1, 2014. At about 0200 hours officers from Eureka Police Department were dispatched to 615 H Street, regarding a suspicious person. Officers contacted BULLOCK nad found that BULLOCK was not intoxicated and did not qualify for an emergency psychological hold. Officers referred BULLOCK to an emergency shelter for the night.
Bullock was then free to enter St. Bernard’s. A warrant was then issued for his arrest, and deputies discovered the suspect riding in his stepfather's pickup truck, near his mother's property, while en route to turn himself in. Bullock surrendered without incident, and bail was set at $1 million.
Image via Eureka Police Department.