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Suspect arrested in death of Los Angeles auxiliary bishop

Bishop David G. O'Connell

© Facebook Bishop David G. O'Connell

John Burger - published on 02/20/23

Sheriff announces results of investigation into shooting of Bishop David O'Connell.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert G. Luna on Monday announced the arrest of a suspect in the murder of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell.

Sheriff Luna identified the suspect as Carlos Medina, 65, the husband of the bishop’s housekeeper.

Medina was heard saying that Bishop O’Connell owed him money, tipsters told investigators. A car similar to the SUV he drove was seen on surveillance video driving into the bishop’s driveway. 

Bishop O’Connell was found dead on Saturday afternoon. He was discovered with a gunshot wound to the upper torso in his home in Hacienda Heights. No weapons were found on the scene, and there was no sign of forced entry.

Medina had previously done work around O’Connell’s residence. Police arrested him at his home in Torrance after a brief standoff.

Authorities recovered two firearms and other possible evidence at Medina’s home, which Luna said would be examined to determine if they were connected to the murder, according to CBS News.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gómez addressed the press conference, calling O’Connell “a good friend to Los Angeles. Out of his love for God he served this city for more than 40 years as an immigrant from Ireland,” the archbishop said. O’Connell was fluent in Spanish, he added, “with an Irish accent. “

“He was a good priest and a good bishop and a man of peace,” Gómez said, his voice breaking. “We are very sad to lose him.”

Reaction

The news of Bishop O’Connell’s death has shocked the Catholic Church in the United States. Reaction has been strong from both fellow clerics and ordinary people who knew the much-loved bishop.

“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,” Gómez said in a statement over the weekend.

“I received last night the devastating news that my dear friend, Bishop David O’Connell, has died,” Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, said on Twitter. “Bishop Dave and I were ordained auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles seven years ago.”

At a prayer vigil shortly after the news of the bishop’s death was announced, Glendy Perez said she knew “Bishop Dave” from anti-abortion rallies in the area and described him as a “soft-spoken and loving” man, the LA Times reported.

“He was not the type that would have confrontations with nobody,” Perez told KABC. “He was very loving, and he had like a gift of healing. When you would attend his ceremonies, it was like a gift of healing.”

Jonny Flores, a Rowland Heights resident who also knew O’Connell from rallies, told the Times that O’Connell was always generous with his time and “very humble.”

A life of service to the poor

According to Angelus News, the information portal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, O’Connell, 69, spent most of his 45 years as a priest and bishop in inner-city ministry.

The native of County Cork, Ireland, was ordained in 1979 and began his priestly ministry in South LA, an area marked by gang violence, poverty, broken families, and tensions between locals and members of the Los Angeles Police Department and the LA Sheriff’s Department. The most well-known incidents to arise amid those tensions were the LA Riots of 1992 following the videotaped beating of a black man, Rodney King, by police officers.

Angelus News reported details from that time:

The riots broke out during Father O’Connell’s first tour at St. Frances X. Cabrini (1988-1998). O’Connell would later tell how he was in Washington, D.C. testifying before a panel on Capitol Hill about violence in urban America when the riots started. He came home days later to find widespread destruction in much of his parish’s territory.  

Apart from aiding neighborhood recovery efforts, O’Connell pushed to restore trust between the inner-city residents and law enforcement. He and other local faith leaders helped organize meetings with police officers in people’s homes and provide opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation.

Amidst the turmoil, he recognized the great need for formation of men as fathers, and he took an unusual step to address the issue, organizing retreats in the mountains outside LA.

The retreats focused on “how to be good fathers and husbands, something he saw as key to the health of a community,” said Angelus News. 

O’Connell chaired the interdiocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, helping coordinate the local Church’s response to the influx of migrants from Central America in recent years and navigating the challenges presented by changing immigration policies, Angelus News said. He was also chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

O’Connell was episcopal vicar for the archdiocese’s San Gabriel Pastoral Region, and during his tenure in that position, the oldest Catholic outpost in the archdiocese, the historic Mission San Gabriel was almost completely destroyed in an arson attack in July 2020. O’Connell arrived quickly on the scene to pray and grieve with parishioners of the mission.

Tags:
BishopsCatholic ChurchTragedies
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