Los Angeles (RNS) — Bishop David G. O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles, was found dead Saturday (Feb. 18) in his home in Hacienda Heights, a suburb in Los Angeles County, according to news reports.
His body was discovered around 1 p.m. by first responders, with at least one gunshot wound “to his upper torso,” a L.A. County Sheriff’s Department official told local television news reporters, but no other details were released.
O’Connell, 69, is known to have ministered to those affected by gang violence and poverty, and he was regarded as a “peacemaker” between rival gangs. The sheriff’s department did not rule out homicide but said as of Saturday evening that the shooting was “suspicious.”
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles in a statement Saturday said that he was saddened by O’Connell’s death, but only said O’Connell had died “unexpectedly.”
“It is a shock and I have no words to express my sadness,” Gomez said.
Known as “Bishop Dave,” O’Connell, a native of Ireland, had been episcopal vicar for the archdiocese’s San Gabriel Pastoral Region since 2015, when Pope Francis named him an auxiliary, according to Angelus News, the L.A. archdiocese’s news site. He had worked in the L.A. diocese for 45 years.
Born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1953, O’Connell studied for the priesthood at All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1979, according to Angelus News.
O’Connell was a “peacemaker with a heart for the poor and the immigrant,” Gomez said in his statement, “and he had a passion for building a community where the sanctity and dignity of every human life was honored and protected.”