CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Arrest made in shooting death of Catholic bishop in Los Angeles

Feb 21, 2023, 7:00 AM

A man suspected in the shooting death of a Catholic bishop is in custody, the LA County Sheriff's D...

A man suspected in the shooting death of a Catholic bishop is in custody, the LA County Sheriff's Department announced Monday. David O'Connell was found dead in his home on Saturday. Photo credit: Victor Alemán /Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

  (CNN) — A man was taken into custody in connection with the shooting death of a Catholic bishop renowned for his work as a community peacemaker, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced Monday.

Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell was found dead Saturday in his home in the community of Hacienda Heights, some 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, in what is being investigated as a homicide, the sheriff’s department said.

Deputies found O’Connell after responding to an emergency call shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, Deputy Lizette Falcon told CNN.

Carlos Medina, 65, was arrested Monday morning at his home in Torrance, California, after an hourslong standoff with deputies, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a news conference. Medina is the husband of the bishop’s housekeeper, and had done some work around the bishop’s house, Luna said.

Detectives started looking into Medina after a tipster alleged he had been acting strange and made comments about the bishop owing him money, Luna said. Detectives also learned that surveillance video showed an SUV similar to one Medina is known to drive had recently pulled into the bishop’s driveway and departed after a short time, Luna said.

Luna stressed detectives don’t yet know the motive for O’Connell’s killing, and that Luna is not yet certain of any dispute.

Asked about the charges Medina faced, Luna answered: “We’re still putting that together.”

CNN is working to identify an attorney for Medina.

Investigators have been speaking with Medina’s wife, and she is fully cooperating, Luna said.

At Medina’s residence in Torrance — roughly a 35-mile drive southwest of Hacienda Heights — investigators found two firearms and “other evidence possibly linking Medina to the crime,” the sheriff said. The guns still must be examined to determine whether they are linked to the bishop’s killing, he said.

A deacon went to O’Connell’s house to check on him Saturday because the bishop was late for a meeting, Luna said. The deacon called 911 and reported that O’Connell wasn’t breathing, Luna said.

Investigators found no evidence of a forced entry into the bishop’s home, Luna said.

Community and political leaders mourn O’Connell

Members of the Los Angeles Catholic community and political leaders praised O’Connell and expressed their surprise at his killing.

“It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness,” Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez said in a statement Saturday announcing O’Connell’s death.

“As a priest and later a bishop here in Los Angeles for forty-five years, Bishop Dave was a man of deep prayer who had a great love for Our Blessed Mother,” 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.

“He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will. Please join me in praying for Bishop Dave and for his family in Ireland,” Gomez said.

Gomez on Sunday issued another statement saying he was “deeply disturbed and saddened” to learn his death was being investigated as a homicide.

O’Connell, 69, was a native of County Cork, Ireland, and ordained to serve in the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1979, according to Angelus, a news platform of the archdiocese.

While working as an associate pastor, O’Connell ministered to communities dealing with gang violence and poverty in southern Los Angeles. He worked to restore trust between residents and law enforcement in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Angelus said.

Working with immigrants was also a top priority for O’Connell and he served as chairman of the interdiocesan Southern California immigration Task Force, which helped coordinate the local church’s response to the recent influx of migrants from Central America, Angelus said.

“For me, it really is a labor of love,” he said of the task force in 2019, “because this is, I think, what our schools and parishes are all about. Not just for unaccompanied minors but for all our children. There’s an epidemic of hurting children, even the ones who have too much. They feel we’ve abandoned them. And the migrant youths have become a metaphor for our whole society.”

Janice Hahn, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles County board of supervisors, said Monday the bishop was a longtime friend of hers.

“He was known to walk among the people,” Hahn said. “He reached out to gang members; he reached out to the homeless; he reached out to the transients. He was the help of the helpless and the hope of the hopeless, and he knew that serving God meant serving man, especially the most vulnerable in our society.”

As police investigate the deadly shooting, the Los Angeles Catholic community is reflecting on his impact.

“I’m brokenhearted. I’ve been crying for the last few days knowing that he’s no longer here to share all of his inspiration and his prayers and everything with us,” parishioner Ramona Torres said.

“I’m very hurt — very hurt by his passing because he’s one of the most lovable persons I’ve met,” another parishioner, Gabriela Gil, said.

“Bishop O’Connell was a guiding light for so many, and his legacy will continue to live on,” the sheriff’s department said on Twitter. “We are working diligently to seek those responsible for his death.”

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Arrest made in shooting death of Catholic bishop in Los Angeles