Authorities in California are working to identify the motive that led to the shooting death of a Los Angeles-area Catholic bishop over the weekend as a community mourns the loss of a beloved leader.
Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, known for being his community’s peacemaker, was found fatally shot in his Hacienda Heights home, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Monday during a news conference.
On Monday morning, authorities arrested Carlos Medina in connection to the case after a tip helped investigators narrow down their search, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.
Medina, whose wife is the bishop’s housekeeper, was taken into custody at his Los Angeles-area home in Torrance, California, after an hourslong standoff with police.
Medina, 61, has not been charged with a crime as of Monday, and authorities have not said what preliminary charges he’s currently being held on. CNN is trying to determine whether Medina has an attorney.
The tipster who led police to Medina relayed to investigators that Medina had been acting strangely and made comments about the bishop owing him money, according to Luna, who also noted he was not certain of any dispute between the two.
“It’s something that we’ve heard to this point, and that is something that the detectives will go out and validate and see if it’s true or not,” Luna said, referring to the alleged dispute over money.
“Our investigation continues, which means interviewing multiple witnesses to find out and get a better picture of what happened here.”
As authorities piece together what led to the shooting death, their search at Medina’s home turned up two firearms in addition to “other evidence possibly linking Medina to the crime,” Luna said – though he did not elaborate on the details of the evidence.
The guns allegedly found at Medina’s home are under examination by a crime lab to determine whether any of them was used in the shooting.
Prior the shooting, Medina had done some work at the bishop’s home, but Luna didn’t elaborate on that type of work. Medina’s wife has also been cooperating fully with investigators, Luna said.
“My heart grieves although I personally did not know the bishop,” Luna said. “This bishop made a huge difference in our community. He was loved.”
O’Connell, 69, was a pillar in the Los Angeles area who was known for his compassion and advocacy work for the immigrant community as well as other vulnerable groups, including those experiencing homelessness and those in need.
The initial 911 call about O’Connell’s death came shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday from a deacon who went to his Hacienda Heights residence, which is about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, after the bishop didn’t show up to a meeting, Luna said during the news conference Monday.
O’Connell was found in bed shot at least once in the upper body and was pronounced dead at the scene, Luna said, adding the exact time of death is pending investigation. Police did not recover a firearm from the scene, he added.
At the time, police did not locate any signs of forced entry into the home, and detectives are investigating how the home was accessed, Luna said.
Neither Medina nor his wife was working on Saturday, according to Luna.
Further investigation showed that surveillance video caught a dark-colored SUV similar to one Medina is known to drive had recently pulled into the bishop’s driveway and left after a short time, Luna said.
Luna did not say whether that was the same SUV Medina usually drives.
O’Connell’s killing has shocked the Los Angeles Catholic community, some of whom expressed their disbelief of the tragedy and remembered him as a figure who brought people together.
At the news conference Monday, archbishop of Los Angeles José Gomez said the community is very sad to lose O’Connell.
“Every day he worked to show 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,” Gomez said.
O’Connell was also known for his work with the immigrant community, including serving as chairman of the interdiocesan Southern California immigration Task Force, which helped coordinate the local church’s response to the recent influx of migrants from Central America, according to Angelus, a news platform of the archdiocese.
“For me, it really is a labor of love,” he said in 2019 referring to the of the task force, “because this is, I think, what our schools and parishes are all about. Not just for unaccompanied minors but for all our children. There’s an epidemic of hurting children, even the ones who have too much. They feel we’ve abandoned them. And the migrant youths have become a metaphor for our whole society.”
Janice Hahn, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles County board of supervisors, said Monday the bishop was a longtime friend of hers.
“He was known to walk among the people,” Hahn said. “He reached out to gang members; he reached out to the homeless; he reached out to the transients. He was the help of the helpless and the hope of the hopeless, and he knew that serving God meant serving man, especially the most vulnerable in our society.”
Correction: A previous version of this report gave the wrong age for Medina. He is 61.