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Suspect is arrested after priest is attacked with box cutter outside Stella Maris Academy in La Jolla

A police officer carries a bean bag shotgun after a suspect in a stabbing was apprehended on Park Row in La Jolla.
(James Rudolph)

A suspect was in custody after a reported stabbing attack on the pastor of Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church outside Stella Maris Academy in La Jolla the morning of Oct. 18.

A man believed to be the attacker fled the scene into the Park Row area but was apprehended by police, according to the San Diego Police Department.

Stella Maris, at 7654 Herschel Ave., is the parochial school for the adjacent Mary, Star of the Sea, serving students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade. The Rev. Pat Mulcahy is the church pastor.

Northern Division police Sgt. Ross Bainbridge said the man was asked to leave the Stella Maris parking lot “and he responded to that by attacking [Mulcahy] with a box cutter and a half pair of scissors,” cutting Mulcahy’s hand.

The man soon fled toward Park Row and “some people started following [him] … up the street,” Bainbridge said. “He noticed there were people following him, so he attempted to attack the people following him. He attempted to cut one person’s face with the box cutter.”

Police found the man on Park Row and he was taken into custody. He was to be taken to a hospital for evaluation and then to jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and possibly robbery or attempted robbery.

The suspect — who has not been identified — is believed to be homeless and was keeping his personal items in the parking lot at Stella Maris, according to Mulcahy and Bainbridge.

Police respond to a report of a stabbing Oct. 18 outside Stella Maris Academy in La Jolla.
Police respond to a report of a stabbing Oct. 18 outside Stella Maris Academy in La Jolla.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

La Jolla resident James Rudolph, who works across Herschel Avenue from Stella Maris Academy, said he saw the man berating Mulcahy verbally at about 11:10 a.m. and that the man was mentioning “demonic voices” and shouting expletives, asking for peace and tranquility.

Someone in a BMW pulled over to help and the man lunged at him with a knife, Rudolph said, prompting the driver to get back in his car, though he stayed at the scene.

The man then charged at the driver and Mulcahy again just before police arrived, Rudolph said.

As the officers arrived, the man dropped his bag and fled down an alley, Rudolph said. Rudolph followed on foot while the officers and the BMW driver pursued in their vehicles.

At the Park Row roundabout, Rudolph said, the man swung at officers with his fists before officers knocked him down with a bean bag shotgun and took him into custody.

Bainbridge said the suspect was traveling on a light blue beach cruiser bike with a pink suitcase.

Mulcahy told the La Jolla Light that he is grateful “no one was seriously hurt” and that his injury was superficial. Nevertheless, the Stella Maris campus was placed on lockdown for about an hour and a half, following school procedures in an emergency, he said.

“The police were very professional. … I’m grateful to them for the heroic work they do. I think the [attacker] had some mental illness or drugs, because he wasn’t coherent, so the No. 1 thing is getting him help and protecting society,” Mulcahy said. “He shouldn’t be out on the streets. I’m glad the police got him. I hope he gets the help he needs.” ◆