Bishop slain in meetinghouse while helping troubled stranger
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Members worldwide are mourning the slaying of a bishop from California's Central Valley who is being remembered as a loyal family man, a well-liked employee and a faithful Church servant whose final moments reflected a heroic soul.
Bishop Clay Sannar, 40, of the Visalia 2nd Ward, Visalia California Stake, was shot and killed Aug. 29 at his ward meetinghouse following the ward Sabbath services.
News reports said a man identified as Kenneth James Ward, 47, Modesto, Calif., walked into the Visalia meetinghouse and asked to speak to a Church leader. He reportedly waited calmly outside Bishop Sannar's office while the bishop was involved in other interviews.
When Bishop Sannar opened the door to his office he was shot several times and died. Visalia California Stake President D. Zackary Smith told the Church News that several witnesses said Bishop Sannar's final actions were defined by his selfless, shepherd-like concern for the welfare of others. According to witnesses, Bishop Sannar struggled with Ward in an effort to stop the man. The bishop repeatedly yelled, "Clear the building."
"He wanted others to get out of [harm's] way," said President Smith.
Bishop Sannar is survived by his wife, Julie Daddow Sannar, and six sons, including a six-month old baby boy who was blessed a few weeks ago: Joseph, William, Henry, Morgan, Ethan and Caleb.
Moments after the shooting, Visalia police said they were contacted by Ward from a pay phone near the meetinghouse. Officers were dispatched to the area where they exchanged gunfire with Ward, who was shot multiple times. He was transported to a local medical center where he died. Ward, a former member, reportedly suffered from mental illnesses and harbored hostile feelings toward the Church. Investigators have not determined a specific motive for the slaying. Ward did not know Bishop Sannar.
Clay Sannar was called to preside over the Visalia 2nd Ward earlier this year on May 30th. Prior to his call, he had served on the Visalia stake high council. President Smith knew he was the right man to lead the ward.
"Bishop Sannar had a solid testimony and a wonderfully supportive wife. He had an ideal family and was just what you wanted in a bishop," he said.
It's no surprise, he added, that Bishop Sannar would welcome the troubled stranger who claimed he was seeking a priesthood leader. "He invited the man into his office believing he could render some sort of Christ-like service."
President Smith also spoke of Bishop Sannar's deep spiritual capacity. Prior to the shooting, the bishop had interviewed a seasoned senior couple from the ward. The husband and wife later told President Smith that the Spirit was strong in their meeting. "They felt [Bishop Sannar] was an unusually spiritual man," he said.
Friends said Bishop Sannar is part of a remarkable family that folks are eager to count as friends.
"People are attracted to the Sannars," said President Smith. "They are happy, youthful and welcoming people." A funeral service for Bishop Sannar is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 3, at 1 p.m. at the LDS meetinghouse at 650 N. Lovers Lane, Visalia.
A Sannar Family Trust fund has been set up at:
The Sannar Family Trust Fund
PO Box 3328
Visalia, Calif. 93278
The Sannar Family Trust Fund
Citizens Business Bank
500 West Main Street
Visalia, Calif. 93291