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LA bishop’s death is being investigated as a murder, sheriff’s officials say

The death of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, found with a fatal gunshot wound Saturday at his home in Hacienda Heights, is being investigated as a murder, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department announced on Sunday.

Paramedics who found O’Connell in a home on the 1500 block of Janlu Avenue early Saturday afternoon pronounced him dead at the scene. “This incident is being handled as a murder investigation. There is no additional information available,” LASD said Sunday in a brief statement.

“The @LASDHQ is committed to arresting those responsible for this horrible crime,” LA County Sheriff Robert Luna tweeted.

Parishioners and clergy in Southern California and elsewhere mourned O’Connell on Sunday morning. The Archdiocese announced that the 10 a.m. Mass at our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Downtown L.A. would be dedicated to him, with Archbishop José H. Gomez serving as celebrant.

The Mass is being live streamed at https://olacathedral.org/live.

“Early this morning, Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department informed us that they have determined that his death was a homicide,” Gomez told parishioners. “So obviously we are deeply disturbed and saddened by this news.

“We continue to pray for Bishop Dave and his family in Ireland,”  Gomez said. “We pray for law enforcement officials as they continue the investigation into this terrible crime.”

Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles gives a warm embrace to Stella Lopez, 97, a resident at Santa Teresita. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles kicked off a novena (nine days of prayer) for the elderly, disabled and those nearing the end of life with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles at Santa Teresita, a home for seniors in need of assisted living and nursing services, operated by the religious order of the Carmelite Sisters in Duarte Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The Mass and patient visit started nine days of prayer and fasting before the implementation of assisted suicide in California on June 9.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

Mass celebrated by Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles began a novena (nine days of prayer) for the elderly, disabled and those nearing the end of life with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles at Santa Teresita, a home for seniors in need of assisted living and nursing services, operated by the religious order of the Carmelite Sisters in Duarte Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The Mass and patient visit started nine days of prayer and fasting before the implementation of assisted suicide in California on June 9.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles gives a blessing to patient Cheryl Bertola at Santa Teresita. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles. A novena began on Wednesay,(nine days of prayer) for the elderly, disabled and those nearing the end of life with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles at Santa Teresita, a home for seniors in need of assisted living and nursing services, operated by the religious order of the Carmelite Sisters in Duarte Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The Mass and patient visit started nine days of prayer and fasting before the implementation of assisted suicide in California on June 9.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, gives a warm embrace to Eleanor Wilber, 101, as he greets all the wheelchair residence of Santa Teresita. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles began a novena (nine days of prayer) for the elderly, disabled and those nearing the end of life with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David G. O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, Archdiocese of Los Angeles at Santa Teresita, a home for seniors in need of assisted living and nursing services, operated by the religious order of the Carmelite Sisters in Duarte Wednesday, June 1, 2016. The Mass and patient visit started nine days of prayer and fasting before the implementation of assisted suicide in California on June 9.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

A sign in a Hacienda Heights neighborhood on Saturday night honors Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who died unexpectedly Saturday. (Photo by Clara Harter/Southern California News Group)

Mourners gathered in a Hacienda Heights neighborhood on Saturday night to honor Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who died unexpectedly Saturday. (Photo by Clara Harter/Southern California News Group)

Catholic parishioner Yvonne Viramontes holds a candle and a flyer in memory of Bishop David G. O’Connell where Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights on Saturday February 18, 2023. A man who has been identified by broadcast reports as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot to death Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Catholic parishioner Yvonne Viramontes holds a candle and a flyer in memory of Bishop David G. O’Connell in Hacienda Heights on Saturday February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Catholic parishioners pray where sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights where a man who has been identified by broadcast reports as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot to death Saturday afternoon February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Catholic parishioners pray where Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights where a man who has been identified by broadcast reports as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot to death Saturday afternoon February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights where a man who has been identified by broadcast reports as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot to death Saturday afternoon February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Catholic parishioners pray where Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights on Saturday February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights where a man who has been identified by broadcast reports as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot to death Saturday afternoon February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home on Janlu Ave. in Hacienda Heights where a man who has been identified by broadcast reports as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot to death Saturday afternoon February 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer)

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O’Connell 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,”  the Archbishop said in a statement on Saturday.

Just a week before O’Connell’s death, Gomez said Sunday, “Bishop Dave and I were celebrating the Mass for the Sick here at the Cathedral. And he was the one giving the Homily.”

O’Connell had prayed before a statue of Mary, Gomez said, and then turned to the crowd to say, ” ‘She told me to tell you that she loves you.’

“That is how Bishop Dave was …he had a beautiful devotion to our Blessed Mother. May he rest in peace,.” Gomez said.

Nationally recognized among Catholic leaders, O’Connell had a prominent role in administering the church’s message and managing resources in the San Gabriel Valley region of the Los Angeles Diocese, reporting to the Archbishop. O’Connell was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in 2015.

O’Connell was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1953. The Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin, called for prayers on his website Sunday, saying, “The news of the tragic death of Bishop David O’Connell in Los Angeles has sent shockwaves across his native Diocese of Cork and Ross.”

The pews were filled at 8 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Feb. 19 at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights. (Photo: Screenshot of livecast)

Dan White, an acolyte with the O’Connell’s congregation at St.John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights, said he knew the bishop as a hard worker with an Irish sense of humor.

“He was an excellent teller of jokes,” White said Sunday morning. “A very good sense of humor, so when he was here for mass, we knew there’d be at least four or five minutes added to the mass because he would tell jokes before and after.”

After 15 years of comradery, he said, the church will suffer O’Connell’s loss for a long time.

“He has gifts that nobody else is going to step in and easily fill in,” White said. “Between the work that he did, and I mean, he has a personality. Nobody’s gonna come in and fill those shoes exactly the way he did.”

According to Catholic News Agency, O’Connell served as an intermediary in the aftermath of the 1992 riots triggered by the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. O’Connell tried to help build communication between police and Los Angeles’ communities of color.

When the riots drew national attention, O’Connell was in his first term at St. Frances X. Cabrini. According to Angelus News, O’Connell spoke of traveling to Washington, D.C. to serve on a panel focused on violence in urban America and returned home to find the community in turmoil, including his parish.

More recently, O’Connell was chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He studied for the priesthood at 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 L.A. Among his associate pastor assignments were St. Raymond in Downey, St. Maria Goretti in Long Beach and St. Hillary in Pico Rivera.

This story will be updated. Please check back for more.

Man fatally shot in Hacienda Heights identified as prominent Catholic clergyman, reports say

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