Target shooter charged with negligent homicide for killing a Utah teen who was riding in a car with his family

(Photo courtesy of Cory Hopkins) Zack Kempke, 14, was killed when target shooters accidentally shot his family's car, striking him in the head. The family, of North Ogden, had been taking photos with the fall leaves and captured this images with Zack just a half hour or so before the shooting on Sept. 23, 2018.

A Roy woman is facing a charge of negligent homicide for allegedly firing the bullet that fatally struck Zack Kempke, a 14-year-old Weber County boy who had been riding in a car with his family in northern Utah.

Kayleen Richins, 40, was charged Monday in Rich County with the class A misdemeanor, which carries a potential penalty of up to a year in jail.

Charging documents allege Richins and her family were target shooting in the Monte Cristo area Sept. 23 using a paper target on a cardboard box to sight in a hunting rifle. Beyond the target was a dense forest — and a road that could not be seen from where the family was firing the weapon.

Kempke and his family happened to be driving along that dirt road looking at the fall leaves in an aspen forest when prosecutors say Richins fired the gun. The bullet whizzed through the forest, broke through the jeep’s window and struck the young teen in the head. He died immediately.

Rich County Attorney Benjamin Willoughby said in a Monday news release that while the road could not be seen from where Richins fired the rifle, she should have investigated beyond the trees to ascertain what was downrange.

It’s clear, Willoughby said, that the woman did not intend to endanger anybody.

“This case serves as a sad reminder to never shoot until you know for certain what is downrange,” Willoughby said.

The county attorney noted Richins has been cooperative with investigators, and called the shooting a “tragedy.” The woman does not have a defense attorney listed in court records, and no court dates have been immediately set.

Willoughby said in the news release that Kempke’s family wished for privacy for themselves as they continue to mourn, and asked for the same privacy for Richins and her family.

Kempke’s uncle, Cory Hopkins, told The Salt Lake Tribune in September that his family did not want the boy’s death to become a topic in a gun control debate and didn’t feel strongly that charges should be filed against the shooter.

Kempke was a ninth-grader at North Ogden Junior High. Hopkins said the family had been taking photos in the Monte Cristo area to send to Kempke’s older brother, who is serving a mission in Oregon for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.