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Utah teen riding in car shot, killed by nearby target shooters

SHARE Utah teen riding in car shot, killed by nearby target shooters

MONTE CRISTO, Rich County — A 14-year-old boy riding in his family's car during an afternoon drive was shot and killed Sunday by nearby target shooters who apparently weren't aware of their backstop.

The boy, identified by family as Zackary Kempke, of North Ogden, was riding with his father, mother and a young girl on a dirt road in a remote area of the Monte Cristo range about 3 p.m. when Zackary, who was in the back seat, was shot in the head, police said. He died immediately.

The shot was determined to have come from another family that was target shooting several hundred feet away, Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey said.

According to the target shooter and several other witnesses, "They did not know there was a road downrange and could not see the vehicle as it traveled on the road due to thick brush and trees," a statement from the sheriff's office reported.

The Kempke family went to the area after church to take photos of the fall colors to send to Zackary's older brother, who is on a mission in Oregon.

Zackary's uncle, Cory Hopkins, remembers the teen as "loving" and "very family oriented."

"He was like the center of attention. He was a comic. He liked to make people laugh. You know, but he had a serious side. He was very spiritual," Hopkins said.

Zackary suffered from Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, he said. He loved video games and the band KISS.

Hopkins said when the rest of the teen's family learned of his death on Sunday evening, they initially felt "some anger about reckless people. Why were they shooting not at a backstop?"

However, according to Zackary's uncle, they've now "completely" let go of that anger. "It was a reaction to the situation, and it was done," he said.

"We've all had time to think, and you know … that family's going to live with this for the rest of their life," Hopkins said, "and I think that's tragic on that point too."

Hopkins said of Zackary's "close, big" family is "just going to miss his lively spirit."

"And we all just can't believe that he's not going to be around."

The shooting was believed to be accidental, but an investigation was underway, Stacey said.

"When the investigation is complete, all information and evidence will be turned over to the Rich County prosecutor for further action or charges. As of this time no charges have been filed," according to the sheriff's office statement.

Contributing: Mike Anderson