Clay Sannar, a 42-year-old father of six boys, was doing administrative paperwork on Sunday between services when a man came in and asked for a leader of the congregation, said church official Ralph Jordan. The man was directed to Sannar and fatally shot him, said Colleen Mestas, the police chief in Visalia, southeast of Fresno in California's Central Valley.
Then, someone called police and identified himself as the gunman. When police arrived at the church, they confronted the man and exchanged gunfire, said Mestas.
The gunman was shot multiple times and pronounced dead at nearby hospital, Mestas said. No police officers were injured.
The man, whose identity has not been released, did not seem to know Sannar and is not a member of the church, and no one at the church recognized him, said Jordan. Police have not disclosed details about a motive.
"We have several detectives out actively investigating this so we can come up with answers, especially for the family," said Mestas. "It's just tragic."
Sannar was the general manager of Soil Basics, a fertilizer company in Visalia, according to the company's website.
Other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation described Sannar as a well-loved family man. One of his sons is less than 6 months old.
"We're devastated," said Scott Henriksen, 47, a church member. "There's only one word: shocked. This is something that should not happen."
Henriksen told The Visalia Times-Delta that he had known Sannar for about 18 years, and he was "very good, hardworking. A great family man."