Crime and Safety

Los Angeles County Sheriff now treating Bishop’s death as murder

A Catholic bishop in Southern California was gunned down Saturday just a few blocks from a church, the murder of a longtime priest hailed as a “peacemaker” stunned Los Angeles’ religious community, authorities said.

Detectives investigate Bishop’s death David O’Connell like a murder, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities did not say whether the target of the shooting was Bishop or his religion was a factor in the killing. The Sheriff’s Department did not say how or where exactly his body was found. The shooter – or shooters – remain at large.

O’Connell, 69, has been a clergyman for 45 years and was a native of Ireland. according to Archdiocese News Agency Angelus News.. Pope Francis appointed him one of several auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – the nation’s largest – in 2015.

According to Angelus News, O’Connell worked for many years in South Los Angeles dealing with gang interference.

He later tried to bring peace between residents and law enforcement following a violent 1992 uprising after a jury acquitted four white LA cops of beating black Rodney King. Nearly two decades later, he brought the San Gabriel Valley community together to re-establish the mission there after an arson attack.

O’Connell was found in Hacienda Heights around 13:00 Saturday with a gunshot wound. Sheriff’s deputies were called to the area – just blocks from St. John Vianney Catholic Church, which is part of the Archdiocese of O’Connell – following a medical emergency.

Paramedics arrived at the scene and pronounced him dead, the sheriff’s department said. The diocese said O’Connell lived in Hacienda Heights, but it was not immediately clear whether he was found in his home or elsewhere.

Masses in churches throughout the region were dedicated to O’Connell on Sunday. Neighbors and parishioners left flowers and candles and prayed on a rosary next to a police tape in Hacienda Heights.

Will O’Connell’s killer be found?

“I’ve been crying for two days now every time I think about him,” said Ramona Torres, who has been a lecturer at her church for over 30 years and often recited at masses conducted by O’Connell.

Gabriela Gil first met O’Connell when she was pregnant with her youngest child after Mass at a Catholic school.

“I asked him if he would pray over my stomach,” she told The Associated Press as she and her family paid their respects at the crime scene.

A mother of seven, Gil has spoken to O’Connell about her sons and daughters and her faith over the years. “I have never felt more understood by anyone in this world,” she said, adding that she initially thought he died of a heart attack or some kind of medical emergency.

The news of his assassination stunned her—only last year O’Connell had presided over her son’s confirmation.

“I saw him in the parking lot before Mass, and he just went out for a little walk, praying the rosary,” she said.

Diocese of Cork and Ross in Ireland where O’Connell was born, was shocked by the death of the priest.

“Since his ordination in 1979, Bishop David has served as a minister in Los Angeles but has always kept in touch with family and friends in Cork, where he has been a regular visitor,” Bishop Fintan Gavin said in a statement. “We pray that the Lord will comfort the many friends of Bishop David in Cork and throughout Ireland.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff expressed condolences to the agency.stating that detectives are “committed to arresting those responsible for this heinous crime”.

“He was a peacemaker and passionately served those in need while improving our community.” This was announced by Sheriff Robert Luna on Twitter..

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez offered the archbishop’s prayers for the O’Connell family, as well as law enforcement investigating the crime.

“Bishop Dave was a man of deep prayer who loved Our Most Holy Theotokos very much,” he said. “He was a peacemaker with a heart for the poor and immigrants, and he had a passion for building a community where the sanctity and dignity of every human life was respected and protected.”

Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Bishop a “longtime friend” and said he was part of a prayer group with O’Connell during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This city has lost one of its most beautiful angels” Garcetti announced this on Twitter on Sunday.

Hacienda Heights is an unincorporated community about 20 miles east of downtown. Los Angeles.

The violence was the latest to shock religious leaders in Los Angeles. Two Jews were wounded last week by an armed criminal who authorities say was persecuting them for their faith. Suspect Jaime Tran has been charged with federal hate crimes.

The Western Journal reviewed this Associated Press article and may have revised it prior to publication to meet our editorial standards.

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