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Ottawa County man sentenced to 90 days for death of boy, 13

Jon Mills/WZZM-TV • Sep 10, 2018 at 6:32 PM

HART — A Jenison man who was a youth mentor and a hunting safety instructor will serve jail time for the death of a 13-year-old boy.

At a sentencing hearing in Oceana County on Monday, Roger Hoeker was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the death of Billy Gort Jr.

Hoeker, 63, entered a no-contest plea to a high-court misdemeanor of careless discharge of a firearm resulting in injury or death.

In February 2017, Hoeker took Gort and another teen squirrel hunting. A shot he fired from his gun struck Gort in the back of the head. Hoeker told police the bullet ricocheted off a tree before striking Gort.

A jury trial earlier this year ended in a mistrial. Before a second trial could be scheduled, Hoeker entered the plea.

Hoeker's attorney apologized to Gort's family on his client’s behalf.

Members of the Gort family filled the courtroom for the sentencing hearing, including Billy Gort Jr.'s great-grandmother, Charlotte Ambrose. She spoke directly to Hoeker during the time reserved for victim impact statements.

"Why does the truth about the shooting have four or five different versions?" asked Ambrose.

Billy Gort Jr.'s grandfather, Tom Ambrose, directed some of his words to the "rules of engagement" he believes would have prevented his grandson's death.

"You never shoot in the direction of anyone in the hunting party,” he said, “and if you don't know where everyone is, you don't pull the trigger. Any reasonable person knows this."

Billy Gort Sr. spent several minutes talking directly to Hoeker.

"Ya’ know straight up, you killed my boy," Gort said. "You didn't even say nothing to let me know you care, to let me know you're sorry."

Hoeker will also be on probation for one year. He was led directly to jail after the sentencing to begin serving the 90-day sentence.

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