Youth mentor faces reduced charge for 13-year-old hunter’s shooting death.

December 4, 2017

Roger Hoeker

Youth mentor faces reduced charge for 13-year-old hunter’s shooting death.


By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

HART — A youth mentor and former hunter safety instructor who was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the shooting death of a 13-year-old Wyoming, Michigan boy who died while squirrel hunting near Hesperia now faces a reduced charge of reckless discharge causing death.

Roger Erick Hoeker, 62, of Jenison, Michigan appeared in 78th District Court for a preliminary exam Monday afternoon, Dec. 4. After hearing from four witnesses, including another boy who was hunting with Hoeker and victim William “Billy Gort, Jr.,” Judge H. Kevin Drake bound over Hoeker’s case to 27th Circuit Court where he will face a high-court misdemeanor charge punishable by up to two years in prison.

William “Billy” Gort, Jr.

Billy was shot in the head and killed after Hoeker discharged his rifle while squirrel hunting on state land in southeast Oceana County on Feb. 18, 2017.

“The judge credited the investigation as very thorough and well done,” said Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon, “but found the requisite level of negligence/gross negligence was not present for involuntary manslaughter.”

The judge also heard testimony from one of the first troopers on the scene, a law enforcement firearms expert, and the MSP detective/sergeant in charge of the investigation, Bizon said.

Hoeker was initially facing 15 years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter charge.

Hoeker was serving as a mentor with a youth outreach program called Christianity Outdoors, and he also a Michigan hunter safety instructor, according to the Michigan State Police.

“On Feb. 18, 2017, William ‘Billy’ Gort, Jr. was on a hunting trip with another teenage friend and Roger Hoeker who is a mentor with a youth outreach program called Christianity Outdoors,” states an MSP press release last August. “Roger Hoeker was also a Michigan hunter safety instructor. The teen hunters were hunting with shotguns, and Roger Hoeker was hunting with a small caliber rifle. During this hunting trip, Roger Hoeker discharged his rifle where William ‘Billy’ Gort, Jr. was struck in the head and died of his injuries. Orange hunter safety attire was reported to have been worn at the time of the shooting.”

The shooting occurred near East Cleveland Road and 192nd Avenue in Greenwood Township, according to MSP.

Billy was transported to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon where he was later pronounced dead.

Billy, who was an avid hunter, was a student at Pinewood Middle School in the Kentwood school district.

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