Friends, family remember slain man, seek answers
Friends and relatives of a man fatally shot by a Colorado State Patrol trooper shared tears, stories and a common desire Sunday night: to see accountability for Jason Kemp’s death.
More than 30 people gathered on the steps of the Mesa County Justice Center for a candlelight vigil to remember the 31-year-old man and demand answers they say they have yet to receive.
“We’re here at the Justice Center because we want justice for Jason Alan Kemp,” longtime family friend Kim Schaper said at the beginning of the vigil, which lasted about an hour.
Kemp was shot and killed July 20 in what the State Patrol has characterized as an exchange between Kemp and a trooper in the doorway of a home at 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B. Witnesses have said troopers who were investigating an accident involving Kemp approached the house after Kemp and others entered it and began pounding on and kicking at the door. One witness, 30-year-old Ian Olson, told The Daily Sentinel an unarmed Kemp was struck with a fluid, suspected to be pepper spray, then shot.
The trooper who shot Kemp remains on paid administrative leave, along with two other troopers, pending the outcome of criminal and internal investigations.
Authorities have said little about the incident.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, the lead agency in the criminal investigation, turned over reports in the case to District Attorney Pete Hautzinger on Thursday.
Three days later, those who knew Kemp recalled a man with a “gentle spirit” who loved children and enjoyed helping others.
Friends said Kemp was turning his life around after struggling with substance abuse and run-ins with law enforcement.
“The choices he made doesn’t mean he deserved to die, no matter what they were,” said Bambi Hall, who was friends with Kemp for 11 years.
“He struggled with things in his life, but he should still be living.”
Gatherers passed around photos of Kemp and placed framed pictures, candles and a framed program from his memorial service on a bench outside the Justice Center.
Schaper’s husband, John, said Kemp’s family hasn’t heard much of anything from law enforcement since the shooting. He insisted, though, that “people have a right to know what happened to their child.”
“The idea that a policeman has a gun, can pull out a gun and shoot it and that no one is going to hold him accountable ... it’s not justice. It’s not the American way,” John Schaper said.