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Clay Sannar Killed: Mormon Bishop Shot in CA

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 30, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Mormon Bishop was shot and killed on Sunday, August 29. A man entered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel in Visalia, California, and shot Bishop Clay Sannar in the foot and then again in the face. The shooting suspect has been identified by Visalia police as Kenneth James Ward of Modesto, Calif.

The shooter was "visibly angry about something" according to eye-witness accounts reported by the Deseret News. He waited for Sannar outside of his office and shot upon entering. Reportedly, after leaving the church, Ward called police and identified himself as the shooter. Police caught up with him about a mile away and he was killed in the ensuing gunfight. Ward was pronounced dead at Kaweah Delta Medical Center. No officers were hurt in the exchange of fire.

A killing on church premises is unhappily reminiscent of the killing of Dr. George Tiller, who was gunned down in the foyer of the Reformation Lutheran Church, in Wichita, Kansas last year. Although that killing was motivated by Dr. Tiller's work as an abortion provider, the motive for Bishop Sannar's killing is still unknown.

Clay Sannar was described as being well liked in the community by the Deseret News. The shooter was not believed to be a member of the church and was not known to anyone in the ward. Sannar was the father of six boys, including a 6-month-old.

"We're devastated," said Scott Henriksen, a church member told the News. "There's only one word: Shocked. This is something that should not happen."

As noted by CNN, in the LDS church, a Mormon bishop does not head up a group of churches or a region, but an individual church. The Church gave a statement late on 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.

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