LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A priest who was convicted of an assault and battery charge in California, and who has been serving at a church in Lawton, has been removed from his position on Tuesday. This was following public outcry over his appointment.
The news of Father Jose Alexis Davila's removal from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church came just days after details of the crime surfaced. He had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge for inappropriately touching a 19-year-old woman in 2011. The priest completed his probation requirements and the charges were dismissed October 2015.
The Lawton Police Department said they were inundated with phone calls concerning Father Davila. Detectives received court documents from the Superior Court of California in San Diego County; those documents show Father Davila was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery charges in 2012. He completed the requirements of his conviction and an order of dismissal of his charge was ordered on Oct. 25, 2012. He was not convicted of a sex crime and was never required to register as a sex offender. The assault and battery charge is not a registerable offense in Oklahoma.
In a statement on Saturday, Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley says because of this, he believed Father Davila could return to the ministry. In another statement from the Archbishop Tuesday night, he says that new information he received made it necessary to remove Father Davila from all work at Blessed Sacrament, and at the other churches he served in Elgin, Apache and Sterling.
St. Mary's Catholic School is right next door to Blessed Sacrament. Students and parents stood silently holding signs across the street from where the Oklahoma City Archbishop was meeting with school staff about Father Davila. They were holding a silent protest over Father Davila's position there.
The parents say that they want transparency. They want to know who is serving at the church next to where they drop off their kids to school every day.
Avery Maddaloni, who sends her daughters to St. Mary's, says they just wished they had been informed when he was hired nearly five months ago.
"It's very, very difficult to go through this," said Maddaloni. "I think it's really rocked St. Mary's community, but it's also strengthened us as family."
She says they were hoping to get a message to the Archbishop about the priest.
"I have a fear that he's a lightning rod," said Maddaloni. "Maybe an individual that is very angry about the leadership placing Father Davila here, they might act out violently, and we want to keep a safe environment for our children, for our staff, and for our teachers."
Maddaloni says they found out about the priest's criminal past over the weekend, and it has been emotional for nearly all parents out there Tuesday.
"I for one have cried many times over the past few days about this," said Maddaloni.
She fears Father Davila's placement at the church has tarnished what the school has stood for, and has made it unsafe. She says they don't want him to lose his priesthood, but those aren't their concerns.
"We are fighting for here, right now," said Maddaloni. "I don't want him here."
Maddaloni said after they found out Father Davila was removed from the church that there were tears of joy, and relief. She says there is still work to be done with transparency in the church.
The school's principal emailed the parents, reassuring them that the safety of their children goes above everything else. In the Archbishop's statement, he says they will continue to review and seek ways to improve their current hiring procedures.