Assistant Pastor Dies in Hit-&-Run After Delivering Sermon

Philadelphia Police searched for a hit-and-run driver who struck and killed a volunteer pastor after he dropped off a group following a church sermon he gave.

Someone flagged down officers along the 2100 block of Front Street, near Diamond Street, in North Philadelphia after someone struck a driver around 10 p.m. Thursday, said Philadelphia Police. Witnesses said the passing car dragged the man about 20 feet down the road before fleeing.

Medics rushed the 57-year-old man, identified by church members as "Pastor Ellie" Elieser Leon, to Temple University Hospital where he died early Friday from head trauma, said Police Chief Inspector Scott Small.

Leon had just dropped off residents at the Soldiers of the Lord Ministry on Front Street after the group attended a ministry session at Bajo la Uncion del Santo inc. in Germantown where the assistant pastor had preached a sermon. Leon was getting back into his 2002 Dodge Ram van after helping make sandwiches when he was struck, said friend Emanuel Colon. The crash did visible damage to Leon's white van.

Police believe a dark 1998 to 2002 Saab sedan struck the victim because they found thin chrome with "Saab" on it at the crash scene. The car should have damage to the passenger side rear-view mirror, passenger-side fender damage, a flat tire and possible windshield damage on the passenger side.

Anyone with information on the deadly wreck is asked to contact Philadelphia Police.

Pastor Teoilo Claudio remembered his friend "Pastor Nellie" as the type of man "who would give you the shirt off his back" and who volunteered much of his time.

"He comes in every day, he works with the boys, he brings the message of the word of God, he was trying to make sure that (the men) go straight," said Claudio.

A prayer service is planned at the church at 2904 Germantown Avenue for 7 p.m. Friday.

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