Los Angeles Bishop David O’Connell, advocate for peace and migrants, shot and killed
Bishop David O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles known for his advocacy for peace, was shot and killed Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I am very sad this afternoon to report that our beloved Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell has passed away unexpectedly,” Archbishop José Gomez said in a statement. “It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness.”
“Bishop Dave was a man of deep prayer who had a great love for Our Blessed Mother,” Archbishop Gomez continued. “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.”
Bishop David O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot and killed Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Bishop O’Connell’s body was discovered in Hacienda Heights, a suburb about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. According to local news reports, Los Angeles County sheriffs arrived Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. to the bishop's Janlu Avenue home and found him dead of a gunshot wound to his upper torso. As of that evening, authorities did not offer any details about a potential motive or suspect in the bishop's killing.
“It's very early in the investigation,” Detective Michael Modica told KCAL. "We got a lot more steps we have to take to make more determination to what's happening."
Posts on social media showed a crowd gathering in Hacienda Heights on Saturday nights, holding candles and reciting prayers.
Named a bishop by Pope Francis in 2015, Bishop O’Connell, 69, was born in Ireland and ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1979. He served at several parishes in South Los Angeles. At a news conference in 2015, Archbishop Gomez lauded Bishop O’Connell’s commitment to Catholics in Los Angeles, calling him “a leader on issues like immigration reform, education, unemployment, housing, violence and finding alternatives for young people in gangs.”
“I know him to be a man of peace who knows how to bring people together in community to find common solutions and common answers,” Archbishop Gomez continued.
Speaking to the archdiocesan newspapers in 2015, Bishop O’Connell expressed his love for the neighborhoods he had served as a priest.
“I do believe what’s really important is for us to be out in the neighborhoods, to be out with the people,” he said. “That’s how we can change South L.A. is to be out there and work with the people in the neighborhoods.”
Bishop O’Connell was active in promoting peace and reconciliation in his neighborhood following riots in 1992 stemming from the police beating of Rodney King. According to OSV News, Bishop O’Connell was testifying before Congress about violence in U.S. cities when the riots began. When he returned home, he and other faith leaders hosted meetings with local residents and law enforcement.
More recently, Bishop O’Connell helped lead church efforts to assist migrants arriving to California from Central America. He helped organize workshops at local parishes to ensure that migrants knew their rights, visited the U.S-Mexico border to leave bottled water on routes migrants were known to take and even personally paid for the rent of one family seeking asylum in the United States.
In his statement, Archbishop Gomez asked Catholics to pray for Bishop O’Connell and his family.
“He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will,” the archbishop said. “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.”
This story has been updated.