Police treat bishop's death as homicide
A Roman Catholic bishop in Southern California was shot and killed Saturday just blocks from a church, a slaying of a longtime priest hailed as a “peacemaker” that's stunned the Los Angeles religious community, authorities said.
Detectives are investigating the death of Bishop David O'Connell as a homicide, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities have not said whether the bishop was targeted in the shooting or if his religion was a factor in the killing. The sheriff's department would not say how or specifically where his body was discovered. The shooter — or shooters — remain atlarge.
O'Connell, 69, had been a priest for 45 years and was a native of Ireland, according to Angelus News, the archdiocese's news outlet. Pope Francis had named him one of several auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — the largest in the country — in 2015.
O'Connell worked in South Los Angeles for years and focused on gang intervention, Angelus News reported. He later sought to broker peace between residents and law enforcement following the violent 1992 uprising after a jury acquitted four white LA police officers in the beating of Rodney King, a Black man. Nearly two decades later, he brought the San Gabriel Valley community together to rebuild a mission there after an arson attack.
O'Connell was found in Hacienda Heights around 1 p.m. Saturday with a gunshot wound. Sheriff's deputies were called to the area — just blocks from the St. John Vianney Catholic Church, which is part of O'Connell's archdiocese — on a report of a medical emergency.
Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, the sheriff's department said. The archdiocese said O'Connell lived in Hacienda Heights, but it was not immediately clear whether he was found at his home or elsewhere.
About a dozen people prayed the rosary next to police tape late Saturday after news of O'Connell's death broke.
“He didn't hold back his words. He was well spoken,” Jonny Flores told the Los Angeles Times from outside the crime scene. “He would take the time. He was very humble. He was never too busy.”
The Diocese of Cork and Ross in Ireland, where O'Connell was born, was shocked by the priest's death.
“Since his ordination in 1979 Bishop David has served as a priest in L.A. but has always maintained his connection with family and friends in Cork where has been a regular visitor,” Bishop Fintan Gavin said in a statement. “We pray that the Lord will console Bishop David's many friends in Cork and throughout Ireland.”