A suspect has been arrested in the fatal shooting of Bishop David O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who was killed in his home in Hacienda Heights.
The California-based auxiliary bishop was discovered shot to death on Saturday afternoon, with law enforcement announcing the arrest of a suspect on Monday.
Law enforcement responded to the home following an emergency medical call at around 1pm on Saturday and discovered the Roman Catholic bishop wounded by a gunshot. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A law enforcement official said Bishop O’Connell was found dead in his bed with one gunshot wound, according to the Los Angeles Times. He lived alone in a home owned by the archdiocese. Neighbours said they didn’t hear any gunshots or other unusual sounds before the emergency services arrived.
Several members of law enforcement said no signs of forced entry has been found and that the killing isn’t thought to be random, the newspaper reported.
The law enforcement official told the LA Times the suspect is a man who was detained in Torrance and is linked to a woman who had access to the home.
On Monday morning, the Special Enforcement Bureau within the Sheriff’s department tweeted that “a SWAT operation for an armed, barricaded suspect” in Torrance “has concluded. Suspect in custody. Kenwood Ave reopened. Neighborhood safe”.
The department chose not to comment on whether the operation was connected to the death of the bishop, the LA Times noted.
A press conference where the authorities will share further details on the arrest and the suspect has been scheduled for 3pm local time (6pm ET).
On Sunday, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Most Reverend José Gomez, said in a statement that “we learned early this morning from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office that they have determined that the death of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell yesterday was a homicide. We are deeply disturbed and saddened by this news”.
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“Let us continue to pray for Bishop Dave and his family. And let us pray for law enforcement officials as they continue their investigation into this terrible crime,” he added. “We ask Our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede and be a mother for all of us in this moment of sadness and pain.”
Archbishop Gomez said on Saturday that Bishop O’Connell spent 45 years in Los Angeles as a priest and Bishop. He was 69.
“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,” Archbishop Gomez said. “He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will.”
In 1975, he earned a BA in Philosophy and English Literature from the University College Dublin. He also received a Bachelor of Divinity from Maynooth College in 1977, as well as a Masters of Spirituality from Mount St Mary’s College in 1987.
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He was ordained in 1979 after conducting his priesthood studies at All Hallows College in Dublin. He was an Associate Pastor in Downey, Long Beach, and Pico Rivera before serving as Pastor in several parishes around Los Angeles.
Bishop Robert Barron initially met Bishop O’Connell in 2015 when they both ascended to the role. Bishop Barron told The New York Times that Bishop O’Connell cared especially for those affected by social and racial injustice and dedicated the majority of his priesthood to South Central Los Angeles.
The bishop added that Bishop O’Connell was a talented storyteller and had a “delightful, playful sense of humor,” adding that he once made an open mic comedy appearance.
Bishop Barron told the paper that Bishop O’Connell was “the kind of person that, when he walked in the room, everyone felt better”.
“He just lifted everybody up,” he said.
In a statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said “Bishop O’Connell was an active member of our Conference and a champion for the poor and marginalized”.
In July 2015, Bishop O’Connell told the Archdiocese of Los Angeles outlet Angelus that working as a South Central LA pastor had been “the great joy” of his life.
“It’s been a great privilege, a great blessing to be given these parishes all these years, to be pastor all these years,” he added. “The people have touched my heart the way they are sincere.”
He chaired the Southern California immigration Task Force, coordinating the church’s response to the spike in migrants coming from Central America.
“For me, it really is a labor of love because this is, I think, what our schools and parishes are all about,” he said in 2019, according to Angelus. “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.”
Bishop O’Connell worked in the 1990s after the police beating of Rodney King to calm relations between residents in neighbourhoods affected by the ensuing riots and local law enforcement.
LA County Sheriff Robert Luna said on Sunday that the Bishop was a “peacemaker” with a “passion” for “serving those in need while improving our community”.
“My heart grieves after learning of the murder,” he said on social media.
Parishioner Ramona Torres told CNN: “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.”
Gabriela Gil, another member of the parish, said: “I’m very hurt by his passing because he’s one of the most lovable persons I’ve met.”
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