Visalia police on Tuesday released the tape of a 911 call in which a Modesto man said he had just shot a Mormon bishop in Visalia and then told the dispatcher where officers could find him.
Kenneth James Ward, 47, made the call from a pay phone after the 12:36 p.m. shooting Sunday that claimed the life of Clay Sannar, 40, at the Visalia Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, police said.
Ward gave the dispatcher a false name, "Zane Thomas."
"I'm at 1525 Burrell Avenue," he said angrily. "Be prepared to throw down in mortal combat."
After hanging up, Ward went to the Burrell address, where his family once lived, and waited for officers, police said. He pointed his gun at the first four officers to arrive and fired. The officers returned fire, killing Ward.
The name Zane Thomas confused police when they tried to identify the gunman, said Sgt. Steve Phillips of the Visalia police. Ward was identified through his vehicle registration. Zane Thomas is a former Scientologist who wrote "My Escape From The Cult -- A True Story," but police are not sure why Ward chose that name.
Police said they believe Ward acted alone when he shot Sannar between services at the Visalia church.
Mormon church members from the San Joaquin Valley and beyond were shaken by what authorities called a senseless shooting. Sannar was a married father of six boys ages 3 months to 14 years.
There is no indication that Ward and Sannar knew each other.
"It's just a tragic thing," Phillips said. "Fortunately for us, it's not something we see every day. The hard part is that it makes no sense."
History of bipolar disorder
According to his family, Ward had a history of bipolar disorder and during psychotic episodes would lash out at the Mormon church. Ward attended Mormon churches in Modesto and Visalia much of his life.
He was arrested by Modesto police in 2004 after he threatened to kill a Mormon church bishop and Roy Wasden, who was Modesto' police chief at the time. Ward pleaded no contest and was put on two years' probation.
Several contacts with Modesto police over a six-year period called into question his mental state, including a June 2000 suicide attempt and an incident in which he argued with a customer at a True Value hardware store.
His mother, Nancy Ward, who died in 2007, reported to Modesto police in March 2002 that her son was acting crazy and threatening to kill people.
Early Sunday, Ward left his father's Modesto home, where he lived with his wife and 6-year-old son, telling his father he was going fishing. Before leaving, he secretly took a handgun his father had locked up or hidden in the home, said Mike Ward, the gunman's brother.
"We were very careful with firearms, but somehow he was determined to get this revolver that used to be my grandfather's," Mike Ward said.
Church members from Stanislaus County were sending cards and donations to the Sannar family. Some feared the shooting could test the church's openness toward visitors.
"We are devastated this could happen in our house of worship," said Ernestine Rojas of Turlock, who sent a donation. "Our doors are always open for people to come in and we don't ask them questions about why they are here."
Wasden, the Modesto stake president for the Mormon church, said there would be an outpouring of support from the Modesto wards for the Visalia family.
"This level of violence is very disturbing to everyone," he said. "Churches are supposed to be sanctuaries."
Donations may be sent to the Sannar Family Trust Fund, Citizens Business Bank, 500 W. Main St., Visalia 93291.
The Fresno Bee contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2321.