Loved Ones Hoping for a Miracle for Evangelist Beaten During Riots With AM-Gang Priest, Bjt
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Evangelist Wallace Tope’s friends and relatives are hoping for a miracle nearly three months after he was almost beaten to death as he preached to looters pillaging a drugstore during the city’s riots.
Tope, 52, has been in a coma since the April 30 attack. His brother, Dennis, said doctors believe it is unlikely Tope will recover, but that hasn’t kept his loved ones from his bedside.
″We always go in to talk to him as though he were awake,″ said John Matlock, a friend. ″I joke with him, encourage him and read him Bible scriptures - he especially seems to like that.″
Friends and relatives said Tope, a former engineer who became a born-again Christian in college, was an energetic and good-humored community activist.
It was Tope’s religious convictions, police said, that made him approach looters at a drugstore on the second day of riots after four police officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King.
″He went up and confronted crowds of hundreds of people, spectators and looters, and started denouncing what they were doing and telling them how it was morally wrong,″ Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said. ″His religious beliefs were so strong, he believed that mission was his life.″
As Tope was preaching and distributing religious literature, two men began to beat him, police and witnesses said. When Tope fell to the ground, the men allegedly kicked him in the head for three minutes, police said.
Police charged Leonard Sosa, 23, and Fidel Ortiz, 20, both of Los Angeles, with attempted murder in Tope’s near-fatal beating.
Both men pleaded innocent. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.
Relatives and friends said Tope has received money and get-well wishes from people around the country. He has qualified for relief through the city’s crime victims assistance and Medi-Cal programs, which should cover his medical expenses, Dennis Tope said.
Tope, who lived in Pasadena, wasn’t affiliated with a particular church but has lived ″an apostolic life,″ his brother said.
After graduating from California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo in 1964, Tope worked in the engineering industry. He quit his job in 1967 and started taking courses at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
Tope traveled to Europe and Asia, preached to local congregations and made a living writing Christian literature.
″I have hope that miracles still happen today,″ said Victor Marquis, a friend who visits nearly every day to talk, sing hymns and massage Tope’s neck and joints.
″Wally has always been very tenacious and determined to do the Lord’s work,″ Marquis said. ″And I know he’s working as hard as he can in that hospital bed to recover.″
Friends said Tope wouldn’t have animosity toward his attackers.
″I can guarantee you that if he could speak, he would still say, ’God loves you,‴ Marquis said. ″And he would tell them, ’what you did to me was wrong but I don’t want any revenge.‴