CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A priest was released from the hospital Monday after he was brutally attacked in the parking lot of his parish in south Charlotte Friday night.
Church officials said 67-year-old Fr. Steve Dalber, a priest at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church on Kuykendall Road, is recovering from a broken arm and injuries to his back.
“That was needless and senseless,” said Fr. John Wallace, one of Dalber's colleagues at St. Nektarios.
Officials said the attack unfolded when Dalber was looking for his cellphone in the parking lot.
"My mind went to, 'Was this some sort of targeted attack?'” parishioner Elizabeth Kleto said.
William McCloskey, 17, is now facing charges for assault and hit-and-run.
"It just made me wonder what kind of people are out there that would attack a priest like that,” Kleto said.
Channel 9 learned that in the past month there has only been one incident, a car theft, reported within a half a mile of the parish.
"You think of a church as being one of the safest places and it's just a little bit unnerving when that comfort and safety is taken away,” Kleto said.
But Channel 9 spoke to Magen Atkinson-Hung who lives next door to McCloskey and said she's not surprised by the allegations made against him.
"Honestly we've seen it coming and it's very disheartening," Atkinson-Hung said.
Atkinson-Hung said that neighbors have had issues with the family for years, which they blame on the teen.
"it was obvious that at certain points there were exchanges being made in the cul-de-sac. That drugs were involved and underage drinking," Atkinson-Hung said.
Channel 9 asked McCloskey's mother about the allegation and she said that the neighbors were 100 percent wrong.
McCloskey made his first court appearance Monday where he stayed silent while his parents told a judge that they have hired an attorney.
After the court appearance, McCloskey's father was not happy to see Channel 9 and gave us the middle finger. Neighbors said that's par for the course.
"We were coming home from dinner one night, they were all standing in the driveway giving us the finger," Atkinson-Hung said.
Atkinson-Hung was the only neighbor who would speak to Channel 9 on camera, but reporter Glenn Counts said he spoke to several other neighbors who had similar experiences with the suspect.
McCloskey's mother did express sympathy for the recovering priest and said her family is praying for his recovery.
Meanwhile, church members are eager for their priest to return.
"Fr. Steve, we miss you. We love you,” Kleto said. “We thank you for everything you've done for our parish and we can't wait to have you back."
The church has created a security task force to discuss ways to make their campus more secure, such as installing cameras throughout the church property.
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