A man who is accused of shooting and killing a Los Angeles bishop in February pleaded not guilty during a Wednesday hearing.
Carlos Medina, the 61-year-old husband of the housekeeper for Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, remains in custody on $2.03 million bail.
The defense team is “in the early stages of the investigation,” Medina’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Pedro Cortes, said in a statement, adding that “it would be premature to comment on the merits of the case.”
Medina was arrested February 20 in connection with O’Connell’s death, authorities said. He was charged with one count of murder and a special allegation he personally used a firearm, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on February 22.
A preliminary hearing was set for May 17.
O’Connell was found fatally shot February 18 at his home in the community of Hacienda Heights, some 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
“This was a brutal act of violence against a person who has dedicated his life to making our neighborhoods safer, healthier, and always serving with love and compassion,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said at a news conference announcing the murder charge.
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. He was praised by officials as a community peacemaker.
Detectives started looking into Medina after a tipster alleged he had been acting strange and made comments about the bishop owing him money, Sheriff Robert Luna said in February. Detectives also learned that surveillance video showed an SUV similar to one Medina is known to drive had recently pulled into the bishop’s driveway and departed after a short time, Luna said.
However, the sheriff’s department stressed at the time investigators didn’t know the motive for O’Connell’s killing.
“When (Medina) was interviewed … he said several different reasons, and none of them made any sense to investigators,” sheriff’s Lt. Michael Modica said. “So we don’t believe there’s any validity to the owing of money.”
Medina, besides being married to the bishop’s housekeeper, had done some work around the bishop’s house, Luna said.
Medina was taken into custody at his home in Torrance – roughly a 35-mile drive southwest of Hacienda Heights – after an hourslong standoff with police, authorities said.
At Medina’s home, investigators found two firearms and “other evidence possibly linking Medina to the crime,” the sheriff said. The guns still needed to be examined to determine whether they were linked to the bishop’s killing, Luna said.
CNN’s Taylor Romine, Josh Campbell and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.