Los Angeles County authorities charged the man accused of fatally shooting Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell with one count of murder on Ash Wednesday.
O’Connell, 69, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was shot dead in his home in the suburb of Hacienda Heights on Saturday just before 1 p.m. Nearly 48 hours into the homicide investigation, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department authorities announced the arrest of 65-year-old Carlos Medina of Torrance, California, in connection to O’Connell’s death.
Medina is the husband of O’Connell’s housekeeper and had previously worked at the bishop’s residence and told authorities the bishop owed him money.
“This was a brutal act of violence against a person who’s dedicated a life to making our neighborhoods safer, healthier, and always serving with love and compassion,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said, according to NBC.
The office of Gascón also filed a special allegation against Medina for using a gun during the commission of O’Connell’s murder at the clergyman’s home.
Gascón said Medina faces up to 35 years to life in prison.
O’Connell was named Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in 2015. He served as chairman of the interdiocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, which helped respond to an influx of immigration from Central America in recent years. He was chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert G. Luna said on Monday detectives investigating the death of O’Connell received a tip from a concerned individual who described the person of interest as “acting strange, irrational, and made comments about the bishop owing him money.”
Law enforcement found O’Connell dead in his bed on Saturday from a single gunshot wound after a deacon from the church dialed 911 upon checking on the bishop because he was late for a meeting, Luna said.
Authorities did not recover a firearm at the scene or detect any signs of forced entry at the bishop’s home. However, after canvassing the neighborhood for surveillance footage, detectives discovered recordings Sunday that showed a dark-colored compact SUV that had pulled into the bishop’s driveway, stayed for a short time, and left the location.
The sheriff said authorities received a tip Medina had left Los Angeles County and was believed to be in the Central California area until later returning to his home at approximately 2:00 a.m. on Monday.
Authorities surrounded Medina’s residence and called for the suspect to surrender.
At approximately 8:00 a.m., Medina exited his residence and surrendered — he was taken into custody without further incident.
“Although our priority before 8 a.m. this morning was to apprehend the suspect — and we did by some amazing detective work,” Luna said. “Our next priority is to get him prosecuted.”
Luna said a motive for O’Connell’s murder had not been determined.
While serving as an associate pastor, O’Connell focused part of his ministry on helping communities with gang violence and poverty in southern Los Angeles.
“My heart grieves,” 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 from people who have worked with him in different capacities,” adding that the bishop was a pillar in the Los Angeles community known for his peacemaking and passion for serving those in need.
During the press conference, Archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez said that O’Connell was “a good friend to Los Angeles.”
“Out of His love for God, he served the city for more than 40 years as an immigrant from Ireland,” Gomez said. “Every day, he worked to show compassion to the poor, the homeless, to the immigrant — and to all those living on society’s margins.”
“He was a good priest, a good patient, and a man of peace, and we’re very sad to lose him.”