Mattawan HS vigil honors father, son spree victims

Paper lanterns are released at a vigil to honor Tyler and Rich Smith, who were among the six people killed in the Kalamazoo shooting spree. (Feb. 23, 2016)


MATTAWAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Paper lanterns were released into the sky Tuesday night at a vigil to remember the son and father who were killed in the Kalamazoo shooting spree.

The candlelight vigil was held at the Mattawan High School soccer field in honor of the Smith familyRich Smith, 53, and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith, were looking at cars in the lot of Seeyle Ford Kia in Kalamazoo when they were shot and killed Saturday night.

Tyler was a senior at Mattawan High School, where he played on the soccer team. Cars lined the entrance to the soccer field for the Tuesday vigil.

“The tragedy that hit us, it’s hard. I graduated in ’09, and just to see everybody come together like this, it’s amazing,” said Andy Flores, who attended the vigil with his family.

Theresa Price walked to the vigil with her 6-year-old daughter, Macie. Fighting back tears, Price said she came to the vigil because she felt it’s all she could do.

“I don’t know the Smith family, but just in a time like this, you come together as a community,” she said.

Mattawan Consolidated Schools Intervention Specialist Amy Smith-Owens, who is trained to help students in a crisis, says counselors gathered less than 24 hours after the shooting to go over their crisis plan. They held group meetings with the more than 1,200 high school students on Monday, and Smith-Owens said some needed follow-up care on Tuesday.

A private process allows students to alert counselors if they see a classmate struggling, and the administration is notifying parents should they see that a student may need help beyond what’s provided at the school.

Smith-Owens said the district is working to provide normalcy for the students. Overall, she thinks they are coping.

“I’m so proud to work here, not only with my staff, but with the students,” she said. “They are handling themselves as well as can be expected in the circumstances. They’re reaching out and they felt the love from the community.”

>>#KalamazooStrong: How you can help

The other victims who were fatally shot were 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 62-year-old Mary Lou Ney of Baroda, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne and 74-year-old Dorothy Brown.

Tiana Carruthers was the first person shot an apartment complex in Richland Township and remains in the hospital where she is recovering. Abigail Kopf, 14, was also shot in the spree. She is still in critical condition at an area hospital, fighting for her life.

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