National News

Sheriff Announces Arrest of Murder Suspect in Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell Death

LOS ANGELES — Authorities are looking into money as a possible motive in the murder of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, who was gunned down in his residence on Saturday, Feb. 18, leaving the Catholic community of that city in deep mourning.

On Monday, Feb. 20, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert G. Luna announced the arrest of a suspect, identified as Carlos Medina, 61, of Torrance, California. 

A person told police Medina had been acting strangely recently and claimed that Bishop O’Connell owed him money.

Bishop O’Connell, a native of Ireland who served the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for 40 years — often in the immigrant community in the inner city — was shot and killed in an archdiocese-owned home in Hacienda Heights, a neighborhood east of Los Angeles.

Medina’s wife worked as a housekeeper to Bishop O’Connell, and the suspect had previously done work at the bishop’s home, Luna said.

The suspect’s wife, whose name was not disclosed, has been questioned and is cooperating with detectives, he added.

Los Angeles County sheriffs were summoned to the bishop’s Janlu Avenue residence at around 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, by a deacon who had gone there to check on the bishop after he was late for a meeting. 

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell and Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, then vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, share a light moment Nov. 12, 2019. (Photo: OSV News)

Sheriffs found Bishop O’Connell dead in his bedroom of a gunshot wound to his upper torso. 

There were no signs of forced entry into the home. And no weapon was recovered at the scene.

Officials announced the following day that Bishop O’Connell’s death was being investigated as a homicide. 

Detectives scrutinized footage from a surveillance camera and spotted a dark compact SUV that pulled into Bishop O’Connell’s driveway and drove away a short time later on Feb. 18. The car matched the description of the vehicle driven by Medina when he did work at the house, according to Luna.

The day after Bishop O’Connell’s body was discovered, investigators received a tip that led them to Medina’s Torrance home.

“Detectives were told by the tipster that they were concerned because Medina was acting strange, irrational, and made comments about the bishop owing him money,” Luna revealed.

Police obtained a search warrant for Medina’s home and urged him to come out. He refused. After a standoff that lasted several hours, the suspect surrendered and was taken into custody at around 8:15 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 20.

A search of the house turned up two guns that will be examined by a crime lab to determine if either one had been used in the murder, Luna said.

Luna did not offer additional details on the case, citing that the investigation is ongoing. 

“But there is information that, unfortunately, we will not give out in detail at this time because the next step is to present the evidence that we have gathered and try to get a criminal prosecution on Medina,” he explained.

The slaying of Bishop O’Connell hit the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hard.

Archbishop José Gomez, who spoke at the press conference where the suspect’s arrest was announced, could barely contain his tears as he recalled his friend.

“Bishop Dave was a good friend to Los Angeles. Out of his love for God, he served this city for more than 40 years as an immigrant from Ireland,” said Archbishop Gomez, who added that Bishop O’Connell was fluent in Spanish and spoke the language “with an Irish accent.” 

Hilda Solis, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, said at the press conference that her heart was broken.

Solis said she has had to speak on tragedies before, “but this time it hits really home for some of us because this Bishop David O’Connell was a personal friend and someone who was very valiant and someone who cared so much about our community, especially the immigrant community.”

Auxiliary Bishop O’Connell was episcopal vicar for the archdiocese’s San Gabriel Pastoral Region since 2015 when Pope Francis named him an auxiliary bishop.

Born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1953, Auxiliary Bishop O’Connell studied for the priesthood at the former 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 Los Angeles.

He was known for his efforts to build bridges in troubled communities. “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.

Bishop O’Connell ministered to a community afflicted by gang violence, poverty, and broken families and sought to reduce tensions between residents and members of the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department that eventually boiled over during the L.A. riots in 1992 that followed the beating of Rodney King by police officers.

The riots broke out during then-Father O’Connell’s first tour at St. Frances X. Cabrini (1988-98). He was in Washington, D.C., testifying on Capitol Hill about violence in urban America when the riots started. 

He returned days later to find widespread destruction in much of the neighborhood where his parish was located.

Father O’Connell pushed to restore trust between inner-city residents and law enforcement. He and other local faith leaders helped organize meetings with police officers in people’s homes and provided opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation.

He was the chairman of the inter-diocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, helping coordinate the local church’s response to the influx of migrants from Central America in recent years and navigating the challenges presented by changing immigration policies.

At the national level, he was serving as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Catholic Church leaders across the country paid tribute to Bishop O’Connell.

Bishop Robert Brennan posted on Facebook, “My prayers for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, family, and friends of Bishop David O’Connell at the news of his sudden death. May he rest in peace, and may Blessed Mary bring consolation to those in need.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York wrote on Twitter, “Prayerful condolences to my brother, Archbishop Jose Gomez, and all the people of Los Angeles, on the tragic death of his beloved auxiliary, Bishop David O’Connell. We entrust him to the infinite and loving mercy of Jesus, whom he so dearly loved and served.”