Black Immigrant Daily News
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Roman Catholic bishop in Southern California was shot and killed Saturday just blocks from a church, a slaying of a long-time 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. The sheriff’s department would not say how or specifically where his body was discovered. The shooter — or shooters — remain at large.
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 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 relation to the beating of Rodney King, a Black man.
O’Connell was found in Hacienda Heights around 1 pm 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.
The sheriff’s department on Saturday initially only said homicide detectives had responded to “a shooting death investigation” with a male adult victim. Authorities did not identify the victim as O’Connell until Sunday morning.
The LA County sheriff offered the agency’s condolences, saying detectives are “committed to arresting those responsible for this horrible crime”.
“He was a peacemaker and had a passion for serving those in need while improving our community,” Sheriff Robert Luna said on Twitter.
Los Angeles Archbishop, Jos? H Gomez, initially only said O’Connell, who served in the city for decades, “passed away unexpectedly”, without mentioning the violence. The archdiocese on Sunday referred media inquiries to the sheriff’s department.
“It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness,” Gomez said in his original statement Saturday, calling him “a good friend”.
“Bishop Dave was a man of deep prayer who had a great love for Our Blessed Mother,” he 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 honoured and protected.”
Gomez on Sunday said the archdiocese was “deeply disturbed and saddened” after hearing that O’Connell had been killed.
“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,” Gomez said.
Hacienda Heights is an unincorporated community about 20 miles (30 kilometres) east of downtown Los Angeles.
By STEFANIE DAZIO, Associated Press