A 14-year-old boy in Utah was shot and killed by a stray bullet in a freak accident while riding in the back seat of a car with his family, according to the Deseret News.
The family was driving near Monte Cristo mountain range in Utah when Zackary Kempke was shot in the head, killing him immediately.
The Kempke family was in the area after a church service to take pictures to send to Zackary’s older brother, who was away on a mission in Oregon.
Rich County Sheriff Dale Stacey said the stray bullet came from another family who was target shooting only a few hundred feet away.
The target shooter and several other witnesses told authorities, “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,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
The shooting is believed to be an accident but an investigation into the event is currently underway, according to Stacey.
“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.
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.https://t.co/IUCTD3Z365
— Deseret News (@DeseretNews) September 24, 2018
Zackary’s uncle, Cory Hopkins, told the Deseret News that he remembers the Zackary 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.
Hopkins revealed that when the rest of the family learned of Zackary’s death, they initially felt “some anger about reckless people. Why were they shooting not at a backstop?”
According to Zackary’s uncle, the family has 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 continued, “and I think that’s tragic on that point too.”
While Zackary Kempke’s story is incredibly heartbreaking, it’s not a rare narrative in the United States.
According to CNN, a study based on data from 2012 to 2014 suggests that, on average, 5,790 children across the country get medical treatment in emergency rooms each year for gun-related injuries.
About 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional, similar to the Kempke’s case.
From 2012 to 2014, 1,297 children on average died annually from a gun-related injury in the U.S., according to the study, published in the journal Pediatrics.
According to the CDC, Utah had 370 gun-related deaths in 2016.