A prominent Los Angeles Catholic bishop was shot dead in his home on Saturday in a California suburb, in an incident that police are calling suspicious. David O'Connell, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was found inside a home in Hacienda Heights with a gunshot wound to his upper torso and was later declared dead, according to CBS Los Angeles.
He was 69 years old. According to the outlet, detectives are looking into the shooting as a suspicious death and have not yet disclosed any information about the suspect or suspects involved. The incident has left the entire neighborhood in shock.
Police said that they were called around 1 pm on Saturday to O'Connell's four-bedroom, three-bathroom $1.07 million home in the Hacienda Heights neighborhood. He was found lying in a pool of blood with an upper torso gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, deputies were called because someone at the address was not breathing. His death is currently being looked into by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as "suspicious."
Police have launched an investigation into the case. They have not officially declared O'Connell's death a homicide, and it is still unclear whether a gun or firearm was found at the scene.
"It's very early in the investigation," said LASD Homicide Bureau Detective Michael Modica. "We got a lot more steps we have to take to make more determination to what's happening."
Early on Saturday morning, Archbishop JosÃ© H. Gomez issued a statement about O'Connell's passing, stating that he had "passed away unexpectedly."
"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," Gomez said.
"He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will."
"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."
O'Connell's death was the subject of no more commentary by deputies, who cited an ongoing inquiry.
Community in Shock
Parishioners gathered outside O'Connell's home following the statement from Bishop Dave, where several were seen crossing themselves as the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department carried on its investigation.
According to the Valley Tribune, the mourners alternated between singing Ave Maria and reciting the Lord's Prayer while clutching their rosaries and candles.
Several members of the community are also in shock. "I was devastated to hear this," said Donna Marie, a local. "Everybody is kind of shocked right now because this kind of thing doesn't happen around here."
"When I first heard the news, I thought he had a heart attack. I'm shocked it was through a gunshot," said Jose Alvarez another local resident.
O'Connell had been a part of the LA Catholic community for 45 years when he first became a priest. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop by Pope Francis in 2015.
An Irishman by birth, O'Connell attended All Hallows College in Dublin to prepare for the priesthood before relocating to California in 1979. He served as an associate pastor at numerous LA parishes after being ordained.
The Bishop played a significant role in facilitating immigration to California. He served as the chairman of the Interdiocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, which assists families and children seeking asylum from Central America.
O'Connell received the Evangelii Gaudium Award last September from St. John's Seminary in Camarillo in recognition of his years of dedication to the local community and the Church in the Los Angeles region.
He also served as the chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development on a national level.
He had just offered to preside over Ash Wednesday Mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic School the next week.