August 30th, 2010
02:02 AM ET

Mormon bishop shot dead in California

A Mormon bishop was shot and killed in Visalia, California, on Sunday, police said.

The suspected gunman was killed later in the day in a gunfight with police, Visalia California Police Chief Colleen Mestas said.

Bishop Clay Sannar, 42, was shot dead in an office at Visalia's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mestas said.

About 20 minutes after the shooting, police got a call from the suspect, who told them where he was heading, Mestas said.

Officers intercepted the suspect and a gunfight ensued, during which the suspect was killed.

Church members tell police the gunman was a stranger who hadn't been seen at the church before.

"I've got a dozen investigators trying to sort this out right now," Mestas said. "We've got to get some answers for his [Sannar] family."

Unlike in some religious traditions, Mormon bishops lead individual churches, not regions or groups of churches.

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Filed under: California • Crime
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Rebecca

    My heart and prayers go the Sannar family. It just break my heart that people can't even be safe in a church of any kind. What happen to america? This sin I will never understand.

    August 30, 2010 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. Nancy Christensen

    What happened to this wonderful young man is horrid! This young man the Bishop for those who do not know is a servant to Jesus and to the members of the ward. He is not paid as no member receives payment to do God's work. There may be some paid jobs but I am not sure who. My heart goes out to his wife, his children and his mother and father and other family members. God bless you!

    August 30, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dustin

    Horrific. This humble servant of the lord has been taken back home to that god who gave him life. Prayers for his family are what is needed. They will be together again in the mansions above. A brief period of time apart will be hard but they are an eternal family unit

    August 30, 2010 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mr. Incredible

    Ken Ward was the gunman.

    August 30, 2010 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Incredible

      How about that? I was right...

      August 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eden Hopper

    Sister Sannar & Family,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you during this terrible trial you are being put through. Remember the parable of the refiner's fire. To refine silver, the Refiner must frequently hold it in the center of the flame where it is hottest. This ensures that the silver becomes both malleable, and most especially shiny and pure, so that He can see His image when He looks upon it. May the Lord comfort & protect your family. Hugs from a Sister, Eden

    August 30, 2010 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. dras

    Life is fatal

    August 30, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. duke

    Must be more to the story, the shooter had nothing to lose when Police caught up with him

    August 30, 2010 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mr. Incredible

    The gunman was bipolar. I'm not making that up.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. FaithIsGivenTrustIsEarned

    This shooting is a terrible act, and is not an act of God but only the bad choice of a single person. The first thing that we have always been given is the right to make our own choices, and with that we must answer for our own thoughts and actions.

    Prays out to the family that they will make it through the trials from this tragedy.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. sad

    What i don't understand is why the cops killed the assailant. Many people won't know why he was killed and there will be rumors over his having been killed by that person who was gunned down . Catching him and asking him the reason why he did something like that would at least give us the reason why an innocent religion man was killed. I am so sure the assailant would have surrendered sooner or later . The killer's first shooting the Bishop in the foot and then dragging him aside and shooting in his face is not a coincidental killing .He first wanted to hurt him by shooting him in the foot!! I wish police caught the killer alive so we would have understood why he killed the innocent Bishop. I am so sad for the Sannar family. There is no logical explanation for people carrying guns or firearms , I don't understand why there are stores across the USA for people to purchase guns.

    August 30, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • DKL

      Criminals will always find a way to get guns. The safest cities around are those that allow concealed carry. If a criminal can't be sure if anyone else around has a gun, he'll be less likely to use his.

      August 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      Did you read the story?.....the man shot the bishop then left, called the police to tell them where he was going.......then engaged the police in a gun fight.....that's why the police shot him........don't you think they would have rather arrested him so they could learn what his motive was..........c'mon now.........

      August 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Visalia working man

      – the suspect was shot by police because he opened fire on them...Suicide by cop, in my opinion.
      – People should own guns because this incident could have very easily been a mass murder, instead of a single one. I know there is no protection if "your day has come" but if you are a witness, will you let someone continue to kill when it might be within your ability to stop him? I say trying, and failing, is better than being "ok" with being a victim.

      August 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MM

    It's possible he was gay, but The reports I'm reading is that the gunman was at the church earlier in the day and became agitated. Then returned, waited calmly to speak with the bishop, when into his office he pulled out a gun and started shooting, first his foot and then pulled him in the waiting area and shot him in the face. Often in times of economic distress people reach out to churches for help, is very possible this man needed help and wasn't able to get what he wanted when he wanted it.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      Please don't make assumptions that try to make it sound like the assailant was justifiable upset. Mormons help all people who ask for it–regardless of their faith. This shooting was in no way justified...and if the assailant asked for help, he would've received it one way or another.

      August 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • HB

      I agree with Heidi. What good comes from coming up with an assumed justification? There is never a good reason to act in vengeance. I doubt conjuring up reasons to hate mormons helps the Sannar family and the church congregation deal with this tragedy. I would rather pray for the family, personally.

      August 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. davisdp5@msn.com

    NO one has it coming "Charlie". And for those questioning why the police shot and killed the suspect...it is because He Opened Fire on the police.....they shot back, end of story!!!!!!

    August 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A.

    Thr Mormons do not kill, have not recommended anyviolence against supporters of Prop 8 or gay people in general. If this killing was related to Prop 8, it would be the supporters of Prop 8 who perpetrated the ultimate act of hate, not the Mormons.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Incredible

      Clay donated money in support of prop. 8.

      August 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      Absolutely. Then we'd see who the real haters are.

      August 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. B.

    A. By saying "the supporters of prop 8 perpetrated the ultimate act of hate" makes you sound ignorant. Even if this 1 person was a supporter of Prop 8, you cannot classify one persons act as a representation of an entire group of people. Obviously the rest of Prop 8 supporters do not condone murdering someone for a cause. Ignorance at it's finest.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bryan

    After reading the posts I have to say there is more than one tragedy in this. One is this good man's life getting cut short and a wife and six children who now don't have their husband and father. The second is some of the responses of those who seem to find reason to display their true spirit of hate. Which of the two is worst? I don't know but those responses are just as tragic. My heart and prayers go out to Clay Sanner's wife, children, family and friends. I am so sorry for your loss.

    August 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
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