Police have named a handyman as the prime suspect in the murder of a Catholic bishop, who was found dead inside his Los Angeles home over the weekend.
Carlos Medina, 65, was arrested on Monday morning, after police surrounded his home in Torrance and convinced him to surrender following a multi-hour standoff, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.
He faces charges in the murder of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, who was found dead with a gunshot wound to his upper torso in the bed of his Hacienda Heights home on Saturday, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police say Medina’s wife had worked as a housekeeper for O’Connell, and that Medina recently made ‘irrational’ comments about the bishop owing him money after doing occasional handyman work around his house.
Neighbors told the New York Post that Medina’s wife had cared for the bishop’s dog for roughly a decade, and that the accused killer also sometimes walked the clergyman’s dog himself.
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Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna named Carlos Medina, 65, as the suspected killer
A man has been arrested in connection with the shooting death of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell (pictured) over the weekend
Police remove a dark compact SUV from the home of Carlos Medina on Monday. A similar vehicle was spotted on surveillance video outside the bishop’s home
The shocking murder first came to light at around 1pm on Saturday, when police and paramedics responded to a 911 rescue call for a person not breathing, and found O’Connell dead on arrival with a gunshot wound.
The sheriff confirmed that no gun was recovered from the scene of O’Connell’s murder, adding there were no signs of forced entry at the bishop’s home on Janlu Avenue, which is owned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
He also noted that surveillance video had captured a dark colored compact SUV briefly parked in the driveway of O’Connell’s home at around the potential time of the murder. Medina drives a similar vehicle, Sheriff Luna said.
Luna said Medina came to the attention of investigators after a tipster contacted police to report that Medina was ‘acting strange, irrational, and making comments about the bishop owing him money.’
Detectives obtained a search warrant for Medina’s home, and a warrant for his arrest, and attempted to execute the warrants at about 2am on Monday, after a neighbor called in to report that Medina had returned to his Torrance home.
Deputies surrounded the home, but Medina refused to come out and surrender, according to Luna. A photo shared by a neighbor with KCAL-TV showed an armored vehicle and heavily armed SWAT officers gathered outside the home during the standoff.
For hours, the suspect remained holed up inside his home, before surrendering without incident around 8.15am, police said.
Luna said a search of the home turned up ‘firearms and other evidence possibly linking Medina to the crime’, including two guns that will be tested for a ballistics match to the murder weapon.
A neighbor told the Los Angeles Daily News that Medina was an ‘odd person’ who was up at all hours of the night to dig in his yard. ‘Always on the go, in a rush, and digging stuff,’ said the neighbor, Marty Hernandez.
‘I’m just shocked and overwhelmed,’ Hernandez told the outlet. ‘You wouldn’t know that you have somebody that lives next to your house that would do such a thing.’
Another neighbor, Luis Lopez, told the newspaper that Medina was a ‘good man’ and ‘always talkative,’ adding that though he had quirks, such as obsessively washing his car, even in the rain, he never showed a tendency to violence.
Police surrounded this home on Kenwood Avenue in Torrance early on Monday. Suspected killer Medina surrendered after an hours-long standoff
Flowers are seen outside the home of Bishop David G. O’Connell, who was found dead in the bedroom of the Hacienda Heights residence on Saturday afternoon
Investigators work the scene at the Hacienda Heights home where O’Connell was murdered
Community members paid tribute to O’Connell with a memorial outside the murder scene
Prior to becoming an archbishop, O’Connell served as an associate pastor at several Los Angeles parishes. He is pictured here in June 2016
The auxiliary bishop was remembered as a kind-hearted man with a thick Irish accent and a great sense of humor
Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies have now arrested a man in connection with O’Connell’s death. A forensic investigator is seen here leaving the bishop’s Hacienda Heights home on Sunday
At a press conference, Sheriff Luna called O’Connell’s murder a tragedy, saying the bishop had ‘made a huge difference in our community’.
‘He was loved, and it’s very sad that we are gathered here today to talk about his murder in this way,’ said Luna. ‘He’s been a pillar in our community, known as a peacemaker, with a passion for serving those in need.’
The auxiliary bishop’s death was first announced by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which called O’Connell a ‘peacemaker’ and a man of ‘deep prayer’ who cared for everyone during his 45 years with the Church.
‘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 in a statement.
‘He was also a good friend, and I will miss him greatly. I know we all will.
‘Please join me in praying for Bishop Dave and for his family in Ireland. May Our Lady of Guadalupe wrap him in the mantle of her love, and may the angels lead him into paradise, and may he rest in peace.’
Following the announcement, parishioners gathered outside O’Connell’s home, where some were seen crossing themselves as the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department continued its investigation.
The mourners clutched their rosaries and candles while alternating between singing Ave Maria and reciting the Lord’s Prayer, according to the Valley Tribune.
Many were in shock of the news, with several citizens of the LA suburb where more than 80 percent of residents are either Hispanic of Asian questioning who would kill such a respected figure.
‘I was devastated to hear this,’ said Donna Marie, a local resident. ‘Everybody is kind of shocked right now because this kind of thing doesn’t happen around here.’
Jose Alvarez agreed, saying: ‘When I first heard the news, I thought he had a heart attack. I’m shocked it was through a gunshot.’
He said the auxiliary bishop was a man of the people. ‘The bishops are usually inaccessible,’ Alvarez explained. ‘A lot of times, they’re kind of hidden in an office, but he was but in parish doing a healing mass.’
Johnny Flores also told ABC 7: It broke me and I was scared to tell my wife, because my wife loved him so much.’
Mourners who gathered outside the archbishop’s home on Saturday said he had a gift for healing. He is pictured here in 2016 giving a blessing to Cheryl Bertola
Ramona Torres brings flowers and a framed message to pay her respects to Bishop David O’Connell near his home in Hacienda Heights on Sunday
The Rev. Albert Avenido, left, and sacristan Hector Ibarra lead members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Covina, Calif., on a prayer vigil for Bishop David O’Connell near his home
Votive candles and messages were left outside the bishop’s residence following his death
The bishop was remembered over the weekend as a kind-hearted man with a thick Irish accent and a great sense of humor.
‘He was not the type that would have confrontations with nobody,’ she said. ‘He was very loving and he had like a gift of healing.
‘When you would attend his ceremonies, it was like a gift of healing.’
Father Albert Avenido, of the Sacred Heart church, also arrived at the scene Saturday night to recite the Holy Rosary and comfort mourners.
He is now working with other Catholic leaders to organize a special memorial mass for O’Connell.
But in the meantime, Alvarez says he thinks people will continue to show up outside the bishop’s home to pay tribute.
‘He was a very powerful man,’ Alvarez explained. ‘You could see it in his personality — it’s not just because you see him kneeling down praying — you know that he’s a powerful man because you can see it in his life.’
Meanwhile, Janice Hahn, the chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, tweeted: ‘I was very sad to learn of the passing of Bishop O’Connell. He was a longtime friend.
‘I was fortunate to work with him during my time on the city council, and again as a supervisor,’ she continued. ‘I join with Archbishop Gomez and the people of Los Angeles in mourning his loss.’
And the US Conference of Catholic Bishops tweeted: ‘We join @ArchbishopGomez in grieving the sudden loss of one of our bishops.
‘Bishop O’Connell was an active member of our conference, and a champion of the poor and marginalized.’
The well-loved clergyman was born in Ireland and was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in 2015. A prominent figure in Hacienda Heights, the clergyman had been hailed as a ‘peacemaker’ by residents of the predominantly Hispanic community
Neighbors and parishioners prayed the rosary outside his home on Sunday
Deputies were called to O’Connell’s house Saturday afternoon after receiving a report that a man was not breathing
O’Connell was born in Ireland in 1953 and was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in 2015.
He studied at All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained to serve in the Archdiocese in 1979, first as an associate pastor in several parishes before becoming an archbishop.
O’Connell also served as the chairman of the Interdiocesan Southern California Immigration Task Force, helping to coordinate the Church’s response to immigrant families from Central America.
Last September, O’Connell was honored with the Evangelii Gaudium Award from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo for his years of service to the community and the Church in the Los Angeles area.
And at a national level, O’Connell was the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He had recently volunteered to lead next week’s Ash Wednesday Mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic School.
‘You can imagine how busy the bishops are on Ash Wednesday, and he offered to celebrate the Mass in our school,’ said Father Avenido.
‘We were all so excited.’