Sgt. Sean Frick, Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said Deacon Ruben Barela was walking across the snow-shrouded parking lot of Queen of Heaven Parish Dec. 28 carrying a bag with Christmas offerings when a man approached him from a Jeep asking directions. After providing the man an answer, Deacon Barela put the bag in the trunk of his car.
“As he was backing out the Jeep drove up and blocked him in,” Frick said.
Frick said one of the three male suspects, all in their 20s, reached into the vehicle and took the keys out of the ignition. He then went to the trunk and stole the bag of money.
Deacon Barela sustained a minor injury in the altercation and later sought medical attention at a local hospital, Frick added.
Father William Young, Queen of Heaven pastor, estimated that up to $20,000 was taken by the thieves.
An angered Father Young did not couch his feelings when speaking with KOB-TV.
“I don’t have a high opinion of these losers,” Father Young said. “These people are really cowardly to do that to an elderly man.”
Father Young also expressed disappointment in a society that failed to embrace the spirit of Christmas.
“Generally speaking, the values of our society (are) crumbling to the point where, sadly for some people, nothing or no one is safe and sacred,” he said.
Christina Manley, a fourth-grade teacher and Queen of Heaven parishioner, said the attack against Deacon Barela demonstrated the senselessness of a growing violent crime rate in Albuquerque.
“I am not shocked that this happened here in Albuquerque because of the high crime rate, but I am extremely saddened and disgusted with the growing lack of human decency that our beautiful city seems to far too often display,” Manley said. “The new year is already causing us to practice forgiveness.”
Fueling parishioners’ frustration is the fact that the church was robbed of a symbolic artifact during the Thanksgiving holiday. Two crowns valued at $7,000 were stolen from the heads of statues of Mary and the infant Jesus.