Updated February 11, 2022 - 7:44 pm
In a North Las Vegas police department break room, Nick Quintana munched on poke when the call came in.
A girl had dialed 911 and said she heard her parents fighting, followed by four loud bangs.
A man in his 50s had been fatally shot in the backyard of his home in the 6100 block of Osaka Pearl Street.
Quintana was on his lunch break, and there were enough officers headed to the scene. There was a feeling, though, somewhere inside of him, pulling him to the house.
“I just felt this abrupt urge to go,” he said. “I was originally just kind of resistant to that feeling, because I was just trying to enjoy my lunch. And again, it just came stronger. I know it sounds weird, but it kept getting stronger.”
He hopped in his cruiser.
Dwayne Hogans was one of the first officers at the scene of the Jan. 14 killing, and he found five children inside the house.
“I remember one of the children, I can’t remember if it was the second oldest or the third oldest, but she kept saying, ‘so are they going to split us up?’” Hogans said. “That’s one of those things that you remember on scene that can really break your heart.”
While Hogans and others gathered evidence, Quintana arrived at the scene and asked how he could make himself useful. He learned the basics: The initial police investigation found that 40-year-old Emily Ezra had fatally shot her ex-husband with five children inside the house. She has been ordered held without bail on one count of murder with a deadly weapon.
Quintana had to leave for another call. But later that night, something pulled him back to the house. And the next few hours would change seven lives forever.
A life-changing decision
As a toddler, he’d experienced a horrible tragedy — his father was killed by another family member. Someone he’s forgiven, he says, and doesn’t want to name.
Without a clear plan, and with that memory in the back of his mind, he drove back to the house and relieved one of the other units at the scene. It was chaos, and the process played out over six or seven hours, deep into the night.
At first he just wanted to talk to the kids, to offer support, empathy, help them in any way he could. But the kids still didn’t know what had happened. They only knew why they called 911: their parents were fighting outside, then they heard four bangs. Then silence.
Child Protective Services representatives showed up, and that’s when they told the five children — Kristina, 6, Owen, 8, Olivia, 14, a 16-year-old who chose not to be named and a 17-year-old who chose not to be named — that their dad, Paul Ezra, was dead.
“I’ve seen a lot of people lament over the loss of a loved one,” Quintana said. “But I’ll never forget Kristina’s cry.”
He pulled the a representative aside and told her, matter-of-factly, that he wanted to take the kids in. All of them. He walked outside and told Hogans. Nobody else in the world knew. Not even his wife, Amanda.
Quintana drove home in a daze. Early in the morning, probably 2 or 3 a.m., he woke her up and told her everything, as quickly and concisely as he could.
“Is this a dream?” she asked.
The couple prayed on it for a few days. Two days later, they met the kids at Child Haven.
They remembered him, no doubt from the trauma of the crime scene and the story he’d told them about his own experience with loss. At first they just talked, but then he told them what he wanted to do.
“Seriously?” asked the 16-year-old.
“Yes,” he said.
“All of us?” asked the oldest.
Two days later, the Quintanas had five new people living in their house.
‘Now we have five kids’
There are bureaucratic hoops to jump through and plenty of things to work out about the future. The Quintanas, who do not have any children of their own, are in the process of getting certified as foster parents, but CPS has allowed them to keep all the kids as they work through that. They’re interested in permanent adoption, too, at some point down the line.
It’s still very early in the process, and it’s something that could take years to play out.
But there’s also the present to deal with. They gave up their master bedroom so the kids could have more space. The three bedroom, two bathroom house in North Las Vegas isn’t exactly what they had in mind for a family of seven. Quintana, 27, and his wife, 26, had planned to start a family. But not like this.
Suddenly they had to buy more food – lots more. They needed new mattresses, school supplies and probably a new car. The kids all get along with the family’s two Australian cattle dogs, 3-year-old Ammo and 9-month-old Remington.
“I guess I’m still learning, too. I’m still human.” he said. “I told the kids this, too: I said, ‘I’ll do my best to be the best that I can be for you.’ But I’m still going to make mistakes.”
And everyone is learning on the fly. Quintana has seven siblings, but he never had a real father figure growing up. He met his wife when they were students at Chaparral High School and joined the Army soon after, first moving to Fort Hood in Texas before settling back in North Las Vegas.
Now, after nearly eight years of marriage, they’re trying to figure out how to be parents for five children.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the family began to settle in to just that – being a family. Remington, or Remy, for short, had an accident in the living room and was sent outside. Backpacks sat on top of high-top chairs around the kitchen island, next to family-sized bags of snacks.
“I come from a big family, so I don’t mind having a lot of kids,” Quintana said, breaking to take a deep breath. “Now we have five kids.”