A Catholic bishop who US Church leaders remembered as a “peacemaker” has been found dead of a gunshot wound .
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said investigators responded to a shooting death at 12:57 p.m. on Saturday 18th February in the L.A. suburb of Hacienda Heights, where an adult male was pronounced dead.
Multiple media outlets reported that the victim was Los Angeles Archdiocese auxiliary bishop David O’Connell. He was 69.
Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a statement that O’Connell had “passed away unexpectedly,” but gave no additional details.
“It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness,” Gomez said.
“He was a peacemaker with a heart for the poor and the immigrant, and he had a passion for building a community where the sanctity and dignity of every human life was honored and protected,” the archbishop added.
Bishop O’Connell was born in County Cork, Ireland, and ordained in the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1979, the diocesan news site Angelus News reported. Pope Francis named O’Connell an auxiliary bishop in 2015.
Over the years, O’Connell was a pastor at a number of parishes in Los Angeles and several nearby communities. He worked on efforts to curb violence in the city, and many of his congregants were minorities and immigrants.
“It’s been the great joy of my life to be the pastor of these people, especially the ones who are suffering or in need or facing difficulty,” O’Connell told Angelus News in 2015.
“And it’s been a great privilege, a great blessing to be given these parishes all these years, to be pastor all these years. The people have touched my heart the way they are sincere,” he added.
Gomez said O’Connell had served as a priest and later a bishop in Los Angeles for 45 years.
On Saturday, parishioners gathered at the scene of O’Connell’s death and lit candles in memory of the religious leader, Los Angeles Daily News reporter Clara Harter tweeted.
Tributes to O’Connell also poured in on social media, where people expressed shock and sadness at the bishop’s sudden death.
Norma Seni Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, called O’Connell “truly a man of God” in a tweet.
“Your sudden departure has left us extremely sad,” Pimentel said. “[M]ay you rest in peace Bishop O’Connell.”
Immigration attorney Linda Dakin-Grimm said O’Connell was “there for every child and family I have represented. Always. Helping, supporting and generally being the face of Jesus for me and many many others.”
Police authorities in Los Angeles subsequently arrested a 65-year-old man in connection with the killing. According to the Los Angeles Times, detectives have identified Carlos Medina, the husband of the victim’s housekeeper, as a suspect in the slaying. He was arrested and is being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
County Sheriff Robert Luna said detectives connected Medina to the crime from a surveillance video that showed a vehicle at Bishop O’Connell’s house about the time of the killing. Weapons were found in his home in Torrance, and ballistic tests are pending. His wife has also been questioned.