Affidavit: Bullock tried to blow up rectory; 'no bail' hearing set for Friday

The man suspected of killing Rev. Eric Freed on New Year's Day tried to cover up the crime by blowing up the St. Bernard Catholic Church rectory, but a cigar he placed on a stove with all the burners going went out before igniting the natural gas, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

"The cigar extinguished itself, foiling the attempt to destroy the building by blast and fire," the affidavit states.

Redway resident Gary Lee Bullock, 44, is accused of breaking into the rectory through a side window before attacking Freed with a wooden stake and metal pipe he tore off the side of the building. According to the affidavit, Bullock rolled Freed into blankets, poured several bottles of 80 proof liquor over him, and attempted to light the bedding on fire.

"A fire did light, but then extinguished itself," the affidavit states.

Freed was found dead at 9 a.m. when he didn't arrive for Mass. The coroner's office determined Freed's cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Bullock has pleaded not guilty to charges of car theft, arson and murder with the special allegations of torture and committing the crime in the commission of a first-degree burglary.

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said there was potential for a "significant issue" at the rectory, but declined to comment further on information included in the affidavit.

"Our officers did a very good job of rendering the house safe," he said.

The affidavit also states the church has an "elaborate camera surveillance system," which police said shows Bullock trying the doors to the rectory before breaking out a window and crawling inside while holding the stake and the pipe.

Mills said the video surveillance shows the suspect spent "a great deal of time" in the historic building just a few blocks from the jail, where Bullock was released at 12:43 a.m. on Jan. 1 after being arrested for public intoxication in Garberville.

"This guy made a lot of noise. This wasn't a stealthy, quiet deal," Mills said, adding evidence shows Bullock not only broke the window, but rang the rectory doorbell and knocked on the door before the attack.

Mills said he did a careful review of the footage to examine how an EPD officer, who responded to the church at 2:14 a.m. Jan. 1 on the call of a man entering the church bathroom, handled the encounter. Mills said he found that the officer did everything he could possibly do at that point.

Bullock was detained for eight minutes while the officer went through a checklist of evaluations to examine his fitness, including whether he was under the influence or unable to care for himself. A warrant check was also run.

Bullock did not qualify for an emergency psychological hold, Mills said, and was not found to be drunk, on drugs or wanted.

"You run out of options really quickly," Mills said, adding he knows people are asking why the police could not have done something.

"There are constitutional protections in place that I'm willing to put a flag on the hill and die for," Mills said.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office has filed a motion to deny bail in the case. Judge John T. Feeney set Bullock's bail at $1.2 million during his arraignment on Monday. The no bail hearing is currently set for Friday.

Bullock was arrested in Briceland on Jan. 2.

Mills, who has previously described Freed's death as taking place during a "violent struggle" declined to elaborate on Bullock's condition at the time of his arrest other than to say he was taken to a hospital for evaluation before being booked into jail.

"There weren't substantial injuries," he said.

The special allegations of torture and committing a murder while in commission of a first-degree burglary mean the district attorney's office could pursue the death penalty in Bullock's case.

"I would not speculate, at this point, whether we will pursue the death penalty or not," District Attorney Paul Gallegos said.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Knight said Bullock is being held separate from other jail inmates.

"He is housed alone, for his own protection," Knight said.

Mills said he didn't know Freed personally, but was able to gain a sense of him while examining the rectory after investigators. The well-known priest has been widely praised by his students, colleagues and church members as a kind man with a zest for life and learning.

Around the residence were signs of a man who engaged in the occasional cigar, enjoyed a nice scotch and loved football, Mills said.

"He was a regular dude, who loved God and loved people," Mills said. "It does become personal."