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Gridley Herald

Local Man Sentenced in Shooting Death of Friend/Relative

Jan 03, 2024 02:00PM ● By Butte County District Attorney News Release

BUTTE COUNTY, CA (MPG) - An Oroville man was sentenced today in Butte County Superior Court to a term of probation on a count of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the reckless shooting death of the man’s 15- year-old friend and relative.

Christopher Riley Noakes, 20, of Oroville, was sentenced to a two-year term of probation by Butte County Superior Court Judge Michael Deems over the objections of the Butte County District Attorney’s Office and the Butte County Probation Department, who both recommended a three-year term in state prison.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Noakes was arrested for the shooting on May 18, 2023, after a 911 call sent Oroville police officers to a Ft. Wayne Street address, where officers found the 15-year-old male victim suffering from a gunshot wound to the head in Noakes’ bedroom. Life-saving efforts were started but were ineffective and the youth was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel.

Noakes pled no contest to the felony count of involuntary manslaughter in September of this year.

Ramsey said an investigation by Oroville Police detectives revealed the victim was visiting with Noakes and the victim had brought with him a semi-automatic handgun. The pistol was subsequently determined to be stolen the previous day from a vehicle in Oroville.

Ramsey said Noakes and the victim were friends and in-laws, and were “hanging out” in Noakes’ bedroom while “FaceTiming” with a friend of the victim. Noakes said he took the gun, which had been in the victim’s waistband, and claimed to be “fooling around” when he pulled the slide back on the gun, then pointed the gun at the victim’s head, pulled the trigger, and the gun discharged into the victim’s left temple.

Noakes said he did not know the weapon was loaded and claimed to have played with the gun the day before with the victim and it was unloaded.

Ramsey said the evidence pointed to an unintentional shooting, but one with tragic and awful consequences because of its gross and reckless negligence. The victim’s mother wrote a statement to the judge noting the devastating effect upon her family, and stating she had tried to keep her son from the Noakes’ residence. She also decried the fact that this past summer saw two gun deaths involving juveniles “playing” with guns.

The Probation Department recommended a middle-term three-year state prison sentence given the gross negligence involved. Prosecutors pointed to Noakes' first statements to responders that the victim “had shot himself,” and even after later admitting he shot the victim continued to claim the victim had handed him the weapon. However, witnesses on the other end of the FaceTime cellphone call stated Noakes took the gun from the victim’s waistband, then “racked” the slide back and pulled the trigger.

Judge Deems said he felt the crime was a result of unusual circumstances and, because Noakes had no criminal record, he gave Noakes the two-year probation term with a condition that he serve 180 days in Butte County Jail.

Prosecutors and the Probation Department asked that Noakes, at a minimum, be remanded into custody to begin his sentence immediately, noting he had been allowed out of jail on his own recognizance within five days of the shooting. Judge Deems rejected the request, allowing Noakes to remain out for the holidays with his family and not turn himself in to the jail until January 5, 2024.

Ramsey noted that the victim would not be home for the holidays and said that with normal time credits, Noakes would only serve half of his 180-day probationary jail condition.