A Catholic bishop who spent more than four decades serving Los Angeles’ inner city has been shot dead at the age of 69, authorities confirmed Saturday.
David O’Connell, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was found with at least one gunshot wound and pronounced dead at the scene in Hacienda Heights on Saturday afternoon around 1 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
A call had alerted police to the scene of the incident, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
His death is being investigated as a murder, according to authorities, who said the bishop was found with a gunshot wound to his upper torso. “I learned he was found deceased in the room, bleeding,” a spokesperson for the sheriff’s said in a statement.
A native of Ireland, O’Connell spent years ministering to residents in South L.A., which he described as a “great privilege” upon being named bishop in 2015.
After news of his death broke, dozens gathered outside his home, offering prayers and lighting candles in honor of the deceased bishop.
“It broke me, I was scared to tell my wife because my wife loves him so much,” one parishioner told ABC 7. Another described O’Connell as “so soft spoken, he was a humble soul. He was not the type who had confrontations with anyone. He was very loving—when you attend his ceremonies he’d have the gift of healing.”
Los Angeles police have not yet disclosed whether a firearm was recovered from the scene of the incident.
Before his death, O’Connell had spent 45 years as a priest and bishop in Los Angeles. According to local reports, the bishop was the chairman of the interdiocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, and has sponsored several immigrant children in Catholic schools across the city. He was also honored with the Evangelii Gaudium Award from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo for his dedication to community service.
“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,” Jose H. Gomez, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, said in a statement.