Man arrested in Catholic bishop's killing had worked for him

Posted at 12:29 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 23:20:01-05

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man arrested Monday in the weekend killing of a Catholic bishop that shocked Los Angeles religious and immigrant communities is the husband of the victim's housekeeper and had done work at his home, authorities said.

Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, 69, was fatally shot Saturday in the bedroom of his home in Hacienda Heights, an unincorporated community about 20 miles (30 kilometers) east of downtown Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said.

A SWAT team arrested Carlos Medina, the husband of O'Connell's housekeeper, at their home in Torrance, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southwest of Hacienda Heights, Luna said.

The sheriff said detectives first linked Medina to the crime after finding surveillance video that showed his SUV in the driveway of O'Connell's home at the time of the killing.

A caller told authorities that Medina, 65, was acting irrationally and had made comments about O’Connell “owing him money," Luna said, adding that a motive in the killing remains under investigation.

He said detectives found no evidence of forced entry at the archdiocese-owned home and that Medina’s wife was cooperating with detectives. Detectives recovered weapons at Medina’s home and ballistic tests are pending, Luna said.

It was not immediately known if Medina has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

A deacon who had gone to check on O'Connell after he failed to show up for a meeting found him at his home just blocks from the St. John Vianney Catholic Church, part of his archdiocese, and called authorities, Luna said.

"Although I personally did not know the bishop, I cannot tell you how many phone calls I’ve received over the last 48 hours of people who have worked with him in different capacities," Luna said. “This bishop made a huge difference in our community. He was loved.”

O’Connell had been a priest for 45 years and was a native of Ireland, according to Angelus News, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest. In 2015, Pope Francis named him one of several auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese.

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, O’Connell brought the San Gabriel Valley community together to rebuild a mission there destroyed in an arson attack. In recent years he also spearheaded Catholic efforts in the region to work with immigrant children and families from Central America.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said Monday that O'Connell spoke fluent Spanish with an Irish accent and every day showed “compassion to the poor, to the homeless, to the immigrant, and to all those living on society’s margins.”

“He was a good priest and a good bishop and a man of peace and we’re very sad to lose him,” added Gomez, his voice breaking.

Janice Hahn, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said O'Connell was a longtime friend who she first met while on the LA City Council. She said that in recent years O'Connell had devoted much of his time to helping immigrants arriving in the country.

“He devoted himself to supporting immigrants, not only making sure that they have food and shelter, but even helping immigrant children, unaccompanied minors, get into Catholic schools, and he helped them get into college,” she said.

Neighbors and parishioners left flowers and candles and prayed the rosary next to police tape in Hacienda Heights on Sunday.

Gabriela Gil, who first met O'Connell when she was pregnant with her youngest child, was among those who prayed outside O'Connell's home.

“I’ve never ever felt more understood by anyone in this world,” she said.

The Diocese of Cork and Ross in Ireland, where O’Connell was born, was shocked by the killling. Bishop Fintan Gavin said in a statement that O’Connell “has always maintained his connection with family and friends in Cork” through frequent visits back to Ireland.

The violence was the latest to rock religious leaders in Los Angeles. Two Jewish men were shot and wounded last week by a gunman who authorities said had targeted them for their faith. Suspect Jaime Tran has been charged with federal hate crimes.

___ Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.