An auxiliary bishop with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was shot to death Saturday afternoon in Hacienda Heights, authorities confirmed.
Bishop David O’Connell was shot and killed just before 1 p.m. in the 1500 block of Janlu Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Investigators said O’Connell, who was a priest and later a bishop in L.A. for 45 years, was found in a room with a gunshot wound to his upper torso.
The sheriff’s department said detectives are investigating this as a suspicious death though no further details were released.
Information regarding a suspect or suspects was also not immediately released.
Earlier on Saturday, Archbishop José H. Gomez released a statement on O’Connell’s death, saying he had “passed away unexpectedly.”
“It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness,” read the statement.
“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. 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. May Our Lady of Guadalupe wrap him in the mantle of her love, and may the angels lead him into paradise, and may he rest in peace.”
UPDATE: A priest sent me this dispatch from last night, an editorial advisory from the LA City News Service:
Sherriff’s Lt. Michael Modica says there is “an unknown cause death investigation” concerning 69-year-old Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell. That is despite a press release from the Sheriff’s Information Bureau describing the incident as a “shooting death” which prompted reports of the death being a homicide.
From Angelus News:
Born in County Cork, Ireland in 1953, O’Connell studied for the priesthood at All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1979. After ordination, he served as associate pastor in several parishes and as pastor at St. Frances X. Cabrini, Ascension, St. Eugene and St. Michael’s parishes – all in South L.A.
There, O’Connell ministered to a community afflicted by gang violence, poverty, broken families, as well as tensions between locals and members of Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department. Those tensions eventually boiled over during the L.A. Riots in 1992 that followed the videotaped beating of Rodney King by police officers.
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.
As a pastor, O’Connell also saw firsthand the effect of broken families on the community. That inspired him to organize retreats for men – usually in the mountains – focusing on how to be good fathers and husbands, something he saw as key to the health of a community.
During his time as auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles, evangelization, pastoral care for immigrants, and ensuring the future of his region’s Catholic schools were all top priorities for O’Connell, who believed that “parishes and schools are powerful instruments of transformation of people’s lives and of neighborhoods.”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him …