Cathedral City man charged with murder in Banning man's shooting death pleads not guilty

BANNING, Calif. - A Cathedral City resident who allegedly gunned down a male friend of his girlfriend nearly a year ago in Banning pleaded not guilty to a murder charge Friday.

Ronald Dean Ricks, 31, initially was identified as a "person of interest'' in the shooting death of 32-year-old Banning resident Michael Gordon. He was arrested last Wednesday in Hemet and charged the same day with murder and discharging a firearm from a vehicle, according to jail and court records.

Read: Banning homicide suspect turns self in to police

On Jan. 16, at around noon, Ricks was seen driving a white Dodge Ram pickup truck past the home in the 1200 block of Wyte Way where the shooting occurred, according to the arrest warrant declaration filed this week.

A witness told police she was at the home with Gordon when Ricks stopped the truck, smiled at her, then allegedly fired three gunshots. 

According to her account, Gordon pushed her out of the way, but was hit and died at the scene.

The witness told police that the shooting "was over a girl,'' later identified as Ricks' girlfriend, according to the document, which does not elaborate on the alleged motive.

Ricks' girlfriend also allegedly later made statements to another inmate while she was housed at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, in which she called the victim her "best friend'' and said Ricks compared killing Gordon with "killing a cat,'' the declaration states.

The truck was found the day after the shooting near First and West Wilson streets, a few blocks southeast of the Wyte Way home. Ricks' fingerprints were found on the truck and gunshot residue was found on the driver's side window frame, according to the declaration.

Read: Cathedral City man charged with murder of Banning resident

Ricks initially turned himself in at the San Jacinto sheriff's station about a week after Banning police circulated photos of him and identified him as a "person of interest'' in the shooting. He was booked on "an unrelated offense'' because police did not have enough evidence then to make an 

Ricks, who's being held without bail, will return to court Jan. 12 for a felony settlement conference.

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