Mormon bishop fatally shot in California chapel; gunman killed
AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Gary Kazanjian
VISALIA, Calif. — A man shot and killed a Mormon bishop at a chapel in California and then was later shot dead by police Sunday afternoon, according to multiple reports.
The shooting took place around 12:30 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel on Tulare Avenue in Visalia, Calif., according to Visalia Police Capt. Rick Haskill.
Police and church officials identified the slain bishop as Clay Sannar, 40, of the Visalia 2nd Ward. Visalia Stake spokesman Ralph Jordan said Sannar was conducting interviews after the three-hour block of morning meetings when a man asked to see him.
Visalia police identified the man who they say shot and killed Sannar on Monday morning. He is identified as 47-year-old Kenneth James Ward of Modesto, Calif.
The motive is still under investigation as of Monday morning.
Ward waited calmly outside the bishop's office while the interviews took place but then shot Sannar when he entered, Jordan said. According to Haskill, Sannar was shot several times.
A bishop in the same stake, who was not a designated spokesman and was not present but spoke to witnesses, told the Deseret News the shooter came to the church earlier and was "visibly angry about something," then came back after sacrament meeting and entered Sannar's office.
The man shot Sannar in the foot then pulled him into the foyer, where he shot him in the face, the other bishop said, citing witness reports.
After the shooter left the chapel, police received a call from someone identifying himself as the shooter, Haskill said. Police engaged the man about a mile away and exchanged gunfire with him. The man, who has not been identified, was shot multiple times. He was taken to nearby Kaweah Delta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. No officers were injured, said Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas.
Jordan said it does not appear anyone in the ward knew the shooter, who "is not a member of the church." He said Sannar was well liked and an "outstanding man." Sannar was the general manager of Soil Basics, a fertilizer company in Visalia, according to the company's website. He and his wife had six boys, including a 6-month-old infant.
"We're devastated," said Scott Henriksen, a church member. "There's only one word: Shocked. This is something that should not happen."
Police have not established a motive for the killing.
"We have several detectives out actively investigating this so we can come up with answers, especially for the family," said Mestas. "It's just tragic."
The church responded with condolences later Sunday. "We have learned of the shooting incident in Visalia, California today which has taken the life of Bishop Clay Sannar. At this tragic time, our thoughts and prayers are with the Sannar family and all who knew Bishop Sannar," said church spokesman Scott Trotter. "As the details are still being investigated, we refer additional questions
to appropriate law enforcement officials."
Contributing: Associated Press
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