Weber County Teen Killed By Errant Bullet From Target Shooter
DAIRY RIDGE, Utah – A Utah family is in agony and disbelief after an accidental bullet cut down their 14-year-old son. The North Ogden teen was killed as he and his family were driving out of a remote area of the Monte Cristo Range in Rich County.
He was struck by an errant bullet from a target shooter.
Officials with the Rich County Sheriff’s Office identified the teen as 14-year-old Zackary Kempke. He was up in the mountains Sunday enjoying a drive through the fall foliage with his sister and his parents.
The family was leaving an area near Dairy Ridge Sunday when he was suddenly struck by the bullet.
His uncle told KSL the family was devastated by the loss that seemed so inconceivable.
“Mortified… like, numb,” said Zachary’s uncle, Cory Hopkins.
That was how he and others in the family felt as the reality of the teen’s death sinks in.
“It hit the window of the Jeep,” said Hopkins. “He didn’t even know what happened. He was gone that fast.”
Hopkins spoke on behalf of Kempke’s parents, who were with him, along with a younger sister. Hopkins said the family drove to the area to take pictures of the fall colors to send to Kempke’s older brother, who was currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“(They were) taking family pictures of themselves, and pictures of leaves and scenery to send to their brother, Gunner,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said Kempke had spirit.
“He was like the center of attention. He was a comic,” Hopkins said. “He liked to make people laugh, you know, but he had a serious side. He was very spiritual.”
He said Zach was part of a large, close-knit family.
“Very outgoing, very active in church, very high-spirited. He was the life of the party. He stole the show,” Hopkins said.
The Kempkes had just gotten back in their jeep to drive out when a bullet hit Zack in the head, killing him instantly.
Sheriff Dale Stacey said Kempke’s family was driving down the dirt road at the same time another family was shooting targets with a rifle, several hundreds of yards away. The mother of that family was firing at the time.
“There’s another victim here,” said Hopkins of the family who had just been out enjoying their time shooting together. “That family is going to live with this for the rest of their life.”
“The vehicle happened to be right behind at the time,” Stacey said. “It appears to be accidental, but we are investigating it.”
Deputies were dispatched to the area after a call to 911 emergency dispatchers around 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Sheriff Stacey said despite what they believed was an accidental shooting, the incident will be treated as a homicide so that investigators are thorough before the case is turned over to the Rich County Attorney’s office for screening.
Hopkins said his family is suffering a major loss.
“He was a good kid,” Hopkins said. “He was loving, and he was very family oriented.”
Rich County Sheriff says one family was shooting targets in Monte Cristo, bullet went through another family vehicle. Uncle of 14 year-old Zackary Kempke says he died instantly. I’m working on a story for @KSL5TV at 6. pic.twitter.com/QcP7SSSqA4
— Mike Anderson (@mikeandersonKSL) September 24, 2018
Hopkins said the family has let go of the initial anger they felt over the circumstances as they focus on Zack’s life.
“He loved the outdoors. He loved camping,” he said.
Zack was a 9th grader at North Ogden Junior High.
“(We’re) going to miss his lively spirit around the holidays, up camping,” Hopkins said. “We’re a real close family, and we’re a big family, and we all just can’t believe that he’s not going to be around.”
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