Kalamazoo victims’ family: ‘We’ll meet again in heaven’

Tyler and Rich Smith were among six killed in Kalamazoo-area shooting spree

Courtesy: WOOD-TV

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The young woman who witnessed the shooting deaths of her boyfriend and his father says no one could take the place of the boyfriend she lost.

Alexis Cornish rode with her boyfriend Tyler Smith and his father Richard on Feb. 20 when they made a fateful trip to the Seelye Ford Kia dealership on Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo. She was seated in the car waiting for the pair as they looked at cars on the lot when a gunman drove up and shot and killed the father and son.

Cornish’s family says law enforcement officials asked her not to discuss what she witnessed at the car lot — the homicides of two people she cared about deeply. The incident was captured on surveillance video, officials have said.

Shortly after killing the Smiths, police say the gunman continued on to shoot five other people at a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant. Four women died and  a 14-year-old girl was seriously wounded. Aneighth victim had been shot earlier in the day but survived her injuries.

The suspect was arrested hours after the incident.

“I loved him very much,” Cornish told 24 Hour News 8 in a written statement Monday, just over two weeks after the killings. “He always made my day better.”

She and Tyler had attended Mattawan High School together and enjoyed each others’ company.

“No one could take his place,” Cornish said.

The Smiths’ family members say they have been overwhelmed by the support from the community.

“The community has just been amazing with being there for us,” Emily Smith, Richard’s daughter, said.

Emily was with her mother, Laurie, the night of the shootings. After Tyler and Richard didn’t return home by 1:30 a.m., they grew concerned and contacted 911. Dispatchers sent an officer to their location to give them the news.

“I’m thankful that Tyler was not alone… that Rich is with him now,” Laurie Smith told 24 Hour News 8. “Someday we’ll meet up again in heaven.”

The family’s hope is that this tragedy leads to something good.

“Being a caring friend, being there for others. That’s just who they were and that’s how people can best honor them,” Laurie Smith said. “Going forward and being those types of people.”

One of the efforts to support the Smiths is fundraiser being called “Tacos for Tyler.” Wednesday, Taco Bob’s restaurants will donate 20 percent of their sales to support the Smith family. Taco Bob’s has seven locations in West Michigan including restaurants in Kalamazoo, Portage and Grand Rapids.

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