Tragedy impacts Kemp family

Dec. 11 Oregon mall shooting claims life of son-in-law

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The recent mass shootings affected one Montezuma County resident more than most who saw or heard about the news.

Greg Kemp got some shocking, heartbreaking news. His son-in-law Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45, was one of the two people killed by a gunman in an Oregon shopping mall.

The incident unfolded on the afternoon of Dec. 11 as the gunman moved quickly through the Macy's at the mall and toward the food court on the second floor, where he opened fire, the sheriff's office reported.

The arrival of police within a minute of receiving the first calls of the shooting may have influenced the gunman's ultimate course of action, sheriff officials said.

The gunman was wearing a load-bearing vest - a military-style garment designed to carry heavy equipment, which some witnesses confused with a bulletproof vest - and was carrying a semi-automatic rifle.

When the news of the Connecticut school shootings flooded homes around the world, Kemp said he and his family tried to avoid it. He said the Dec. 14 school shooting would have been too difficult to absorb.

Kemp said he had seen the headlines about the mall shooting in Oregon but paid little attention. He never gave it a second thought.The odds of a shooting victim being someone he knew was extremely remote.

Then he received a phone call from a family member that night.

Kemp, who is still in Portland, Ore, said the news was devastating.

"I was in total shock," he said, and mentioned the other person who was killed in the mall by the killer that day.

Forsyth was working at a mall kiosk selling coasters, a family hobby that his father and brother were involved in that became a family-owned business.

Forsyth was shot and killed as he was talking to his father on the phone.

And the tragic incident could have been much more devastating for the Kemp family.

Moments before the shooter killed his son-in-law, Kemp's daughter, Carla, and his 18-year-old granddaughter, Katie, had just departed the kiosk area to do some shopping.

Kemp said the shooter, who fired 60 bullets, killed himself in the mall when police arrived.

Kemp, who made an unsuccessful run for Montezma County commissioner in November, said what he wants to convey to people is that this was a random act of violence by someone using a semi-automatic weapon.

"I guess the message is if they have to have a semi-automatic weapon, which I do not know why they would, it is crucial to keep it absolutely secure," he said.

The gun was unknowingly taken from a friend the day before the mall shooting, and in the school shooting, the killer had access to this same kind of weapon, he said.

He said his daughter and two grandchildren, Katie and Alex, 12, are doing as well as can be expected.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com