Catholic Bishop Shot Dead in Hacienda Heights

Bishop David O’Connell had spent most of his 45-year tenure serving LA’s poorest neighborhoods. His death is being investigated as a homicide

A beloved Los Angeles Catholic Bishop known as the “peacemaker” was found dead in his Hacienda Heights home on Saturday, shot in the torso in home by an unknown assailant.

David O’Connell, an Irish-American priest, was appointed to the Los Angeles Archdiocese by Pope Francis in 2016. He had served as a priest here for 45 years, and spent much of that time counseling parishioners in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. The 69-year-old cleric was shot inside his home on Janlu Avenue, a death that the LA County Sheriffs Department is calling a murder investigation.

A 911 caller told the LASD that O’Connell, an auxiliary Archbishop, was found “suffering from a gunshot wound,” according to a department release. Paramedics pronounced O’Connell dead at the scene.

“I have no words to express my sadness,” Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a statement to parishioners Sunday.  “Bishop Dave was a man of deep prayer who had a great love for Our Blessed Mother. He was a peacemaker with a heart for the poor and the immigrant. He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will.”

During the Rodney King riots in 1992, then Father O’Connell, then a priest at St. Francis Cabrini Parish, called for calm and led cleanup efforts as the city was plunged into deadly chaos. More than 60 people were killed in the violence, with over 2,000 more injured, and $1 billion of property damaged. He was a champion of the disadvantaged and a staunch pro-life advocate.

“Bishop O’Connell was a guiding light for so many, and his legacy will continue to live on,” the LASD tweeted to the city. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and we are working diligently to seek those responsible for his death.”

Mourners with candles grieved outside the Bishop’s home Saturday night as outpouring of sympathy flooded social media from LA civic leaders, including LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn who wrote: “I was very sad to learn of the passing of Bishop O’Connell. He was a longtime friend. I was fortunate to work with him during my time on the city council and again as Supervisor.”

Investigators urged anyone with information to contact investigators in the LASD Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.

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