A Modesto man who fatally shot a Mormon church official in Visalia and then was killed by police there had bipolar disorder, his father said this afternoon.
He also had long-standing animosity toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his father said.
"He was definitely anti-Mormon and yet he was raised in it," said George Ward, his father. "I don't understand how that happened."
Kenneth James Ward is suspected of killing Bishop Clay Sannar, 40, on Sunday in the foyer of the church in Visalia. It's the same church his family attended in the late 1980s, his brother said.
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Ward apparently drove away from the church but later called police, who found the man minutes later in a central Visalia neighborhood and fatally shot him in an exchange of gunfire.
George Ward, who lives in Modesto, said his son took medication that controlled the symptoms of his mental disorder.
In 2004, Kenneth Ward was arrested by Modesto police for allegedly making threats to a person at a church.
According to the Visalia Times-Delta, his younger brother, Mike Ward, said there was a past incident and his brother was committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Mike Ward told the Fresno Bee that his brother "was a lovable guy, but that monster would overtake him."
"He had mental problems and he struggled with them," Mike Ward said. "Who would do this? This isn't a rational thing."
Early Sunday, George Ward said his son left the home where he lived with his wife and 6-year-old son, telling his father he was going fishing with a friend. When the father called the friend later in the day, the friend said he knew nothing about a fishing trip.
George Ward said his son, the oldest of three children, served in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq, and believes his loud and erratic behavior after returning home was post-traumatic stress disorder.
During the conflict, Kenneth Ward served with the 82nd Airborne as a combat engineer and suffered a severe knee injury while unloading cargo from a plane, his dad said.
After the Persian Gulf conflict and some time off, he re-enlisted in the Army and received an early discharge.
He was later diagnosed with bipolar and went on disability.
Several years ago, he and his wife attended a Mormon church in Modesto. They quit attending because of Kenneth's growing animosity for the church.
George Ward said his son had not talked recently about going to Visalia, where he spent part of his childhood. He had no explanation for what his son allegedly did.
"That man yesterday was not my son," he said. "I may spend the rest of my life trying to understand why."
Wayne Provost, a neighbor of the Wards, said he had spoken with Kenneth Ward a few times. He never saw anything out of the ordinary.
He said Ward would drive his wife to work and his 6-year-old son to school in the mornings. During the Fourth of July, Ward lit fireworks for his family in front of the home.
"I don't know what would make him do that," he said of the Visalia shooting. "But then again, you don't know people."
He said his son consciously tried to avoid conflicts with people because of his size and unpredictable mental disorder. His dad estimated he weighed 325 pounds.
“He went around trouble,” his dad said. “He was afraid if he lost his temper he would hurt someone.”
According to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, a spokesman for the Mormon church in Visalia said Bishop Sannar was conducting interviews after a three-hour block of morning church meetings when the suspect asked to see him.
Spokesman Ralph Jordan said the suspect waited calmly outside Sanner's office while the interviews took place but then shot Sannar when he entered.
A bishop at another Visalia-area Mormon church, 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 a church 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.
The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.