'He was a good kid': Teen struck by stray bullet remembered for humor, spirituality

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WOODRUFF, Rich County — A 14-year-old boy who died after he was a struck by a stray bullet fired by a group target shooting Sunday afternoon had a good sense of humor and the ability to be the center of attention, his uncle said Monday.

Zackary Kempke died instantly after the bullet struck him in the head.

"He didn't even know what happened, he was gone that fast," said Cory Hopkins, Kempke's uncle.

Kempke's parents and sister were inside a vehicle near Monte Cristo ridge in a remote area of northern Utah when the bullet struck him. They were not injured.

The teen was with them in the area to take family photos to send to his older brother who is serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to Hopkins.

Kempke's uncle remembered his nephew for his vibrant energy.

"He was like the center of attention. He was a comic, he liked to make people laugh," Hopkins said. "But he had a serious side. He was very spiritual. ... He was a good kid. He was family-oriented."

Meanwhile, authorities are still investigating the shooting. Deputies responded to a report of a shooting on Dairy Ridge near Monte Cristo campground southwest of Woodruff about 3 p.m., said Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey.

Stacey said a group was target shooting near some trees that were in front of a dirt road. A woman in that group fired a shot that struck the boy in the head as he was sitting in a car driving by on the dirt road and died instantly.

The group shooting told investigators they were unaware a dirt road was there and could not see the vehicle because of the vegetation in the area, Rich County sheriff's officials said in a statement. Officials added the target the group was shooting at was "several hundred feet" from the vehicle.

Authorities believe the shooting was accidental, but they were investigating the case as a homicide before they send a report to the county attorney for any possible charges, Stacey added.

"It appears to be accidental at this point," Stacey said.

Contributing: Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Editor's note: This story was corrected to say the family identified Zackary Kempke, not authorities.



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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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