Murder charges have been filed against a 61-year-old man in the fatal shooting of a long-serving Los Angeles Catholic pastor known as a “peacemaker” and appointed as an auxiliary bishop by Pope Francis.
The suspect, Carlos Medina, was charged with first-degree murder with a special allegation of using a firearm in the commission of a murder, stemming from the slaying of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell over the weekend, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon announced Wednesday.
Medina is the husband of O’Connell’s housekeeper, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.
“This was a brutal act of violence against a person who dedicated his life to making our neighborhoods safer, healthier and always serving with love and compassion,” Gascon said of O’Connell at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Detectives received a tip Sunday night that Medina was acting strangely and accused O’Connell of owing him money, Luna said at a news conference Monday.
But the lead investigator in the murder probe said Wednesday that no evidence has been discovered supporting the theory that the bishop owed the suspect money. During questioning, Medina made several statements in regard to motive, but none made sense, the investigator said.
A motive in the homicide remains under investigation, Gascon said.
He said a deacon for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles called 911 after discovering O’Connell’s body Sunday afternoon in a bed at the home where he lived in the unincorporated Los Angeles County community of Hacienda Heights. Gascon said the home is owned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Gascon said O’Connell was shot multiple times.
The district attorney said detectives found no evidence of a forced entry at the home and are investigating whether Medina had a key to the residence. Gascon said Medina had previously done work at the house, where his wife is employed as a housekeeper.
If convicted, Medina faces a sentence of 35 years to life in prison, Gascon said.
Sheriff’s deputies received a medical emergency call at 12:57 p.m. Sunday and responded to the Hacienda Heights home. There, they found the 69-year-old O’Connell unresponsive and bleeding from gunshot wounds to the upper torso.
O’Connell was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said. It’s unclear how long he had been dead before sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home.
The killing of the beloved bishop sent shock waves through the Los Angeles Catholic community, prompting some parishioners to go to the scene of O’Connell’s death to pray.
José H. Gomez, the archbishop of Los Angeles, said O’Connell was known as a “man of deep prayer.”
“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.
Born in Ireland, O’Connell was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in 2015.
O’Connell studied for the priesthood at All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained in 1979 to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. After ordination, he served as associate pastor and pastor at several parishes in Los Angeles. He was also the chairman of the Interdiocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, helping coordinate the church’s response to immigrant children and families from Central America.
Gascon said O’Connell worked closely with the city’s immigrants and communities affected by gang violence.
“He personally impacted the lives of thousands of Angelinos. He was committed to those who are most vulnerable in our community,” Gascon said. “His loss is one that will be felt deeply for years to come.”
ABC News’ Irving Last contributed to this report.