Charge reduced for man who shot and killed teenager while on a hunting trip

OCEANA COUNTY, MICH. - Ten months after the death of a Wyoming boy, the man charged in the shooting who is also the founder of a Christian outreach program for boys -- appeared in court on Monday, Dec. 4. 

A judge reviewed evidence and testimony in the case against Roger Hoeker, who has already settled a wrongful death lawsuit over the incident. 

Hoeker was with Billy Gort Jr. and another boy, hunting for squirrels southwest of Hesperia last February. He told police one of his shots ricocheted off a tree hitting Gort.

The lead detective testified saying he searched the tree, where Hoeker said he shot at a squirrel, but could not find any signs of a bullet ricocheted.

►Read more: Mom hopes for justice after son killed in hunting trip; 'I just don't want them to forget about him'

The second teenager there that day told the judge he heard two shots occur four or five seconds apart and actually saw Hoeker following the second shot. 

But from his position, the boy told the judge he could not see Gort. A few moments after the shots the teen says he heard Hoeker, his mentor and hunting instructor, calling for him.

Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon asked the second teenager what Hoeker did after shooting Gort. 

"He gathered all the guns, and the ammunition and brought it back to his truck, pulled the truck around so we could get Billy in the back," said the second teenager. 

Oceana County District Judge reduced Hoeker's charge to careless, reckless, or negligent discharge of a firearm causing death -- a high-court misdemeanor with a maximum of two years if convicted. 

Hoeker was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter which is punishable by up to 15 years behind bars.

Gort's family previously expressed that they'd like to see Hoeker in prison for life, and Gort's grandfather, Tom Ambrose, reiterated that sentiment outside the courtroom, Monday. 

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