Suspect in machete attack of a priest could be charged with hate crime in Melville

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The small town of Melville in St. Landry Parish is in shock after a man used a machete and attacked a priest. Police Chief Phillip Lucas said 58-year-old Johnny Neely of Melville is in custody after the alleged attack of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church priest Thursday night.

“According to the witness that was with him stated that he went to the home to ask him if he could work for food. The witness stated that’s when Johnny Neely got aggressive with the priest by going after him with the machete knife,” said Lucas.

Lucas said the witness who was with Neely fled the scene and called 9-1-1. The priest is listed in critical condition following the attack and Neely faces second-degree attempted murder charges and Lucas said he could also be charged with a hate crime.

“The statement that was made and his intent when he went out there, he stated that he was going to cut off a Black man’s head today,” said Lucas.

Lucas said Neely had been walking around town looking for work and that he has a history of being in and out of jail. Lucas said the investigation is ongoing and the machete attack has shaken the community.

“They are afraid, but they are more satisfied cause we have the subject in custody at this present time. If we didn’t have the person in custody it’d be different but at this present time we have him in custody,” said Lucas.

The priest is being treated for lacerations to his head and body. Neeley is also charged with home invasion.

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