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Murder case dismissed against man who fatally shot Henderson teen

The Clark County district attorney’s office voluntarily dismissed a murder complaint against an Army veteran in a rare decision and after a “full review of all the facts and circumstances.”

District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a statement that Edward Croaker acted in self defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Kory Lino in the alley behind his house in December.

In the early hours of Dec. 12, Lino and another teen fired a pistol near Croaker’s Henderson home. Croaker told Henderson police at the time that he feared for his family and returned fire.

Police said they arrested Croaker after determining that no shots were fired at Croaker’s house and that the teens were running away from the home when Lino was shot in the head. Lino’s body was found 90 feet away from where Croaker fired through his bedroom window.

“We could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes he was charged with,” Wolfson said.

The case was dismissed on Sept. 21 before Justice of the Peace Stephen George.

“He was always sympathetic to (Lino’s) family, that they lost someone, but he always felt that he did what anyone would do in that scenario in defending his house and his family,” defense attorney Abel Yanez said of Croaker.

Yanez said the district attorney’s decision is significant because the office only has to prove probable cause, not reasonable doubt, in a preliminary hearing.

In the preliminary hearing, George would have decided whether the prosecution had enough evidence for Croaker to stand trial.

“They wanted to take a step back and look at it. And then after months of investigation, their conclusion was the same as mine: This was a self-defense case,” Yanez said.

“We’re obviously thankful that the government took the time to look at it. I don’t think that happens often … And that’s the way the system should work.”

Here are the facts of the case as presented in court documents :

Around 1 a.m. Dec. 12, Lino and his friend, Zeru Burch-Estes, who was also 17, missed a bus at Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road.

They were walking back to an apartment complex when Lino stopped to urinate behind the Quicky Wash, a Henderson police report says.

At that point, Burch-Estes took a Glock firearm from his backpack and fired one round toward Sunset Road.

Burch-Estes told police that he then handed the gun to Lino, who said: “If your Gonna Bust, then I’m Gonna Bust.”

Lino fired one round at either the block wall directly behind Croaker’s residence or into the wall of the Quicky Wash, the report says.

Lino then began to fire the weapon multiple times in “an unknown direction,” according to the report.

Croaker was in bed, playing games on his cellphone when he heard the loud gunshots behind his house.

He had already been on high alert: His vehicle had been keyed, his tires slashed and someone had entered his home through an unlocked door, according to the police report.

Croaker told police he believed it was his son’s former drug dealers.

So when Croaker, then 44, heard the shots, he picked up his Glock 19 and opened his bedroom window. He saw the two teens in the parking lot, and Lino holding the black pistol.

Another shot was fired, which “placed him in fear for his life,” according to the report.

He said he fired three rounds through his screen, striking Lino, the report states. Croaker then said he laid down on the floor and called 911.

Burch-Estes told police he saw Lino “twirl around” and fall to the ground. He placed Lino’s head on his backpack.

A neighbor who opened his back door when he heard the rapid shots told police he heard a voice yelling, “Hang in there, don’t die on me.”

Burch-Estes picked up the weapon and hid it in a nearby dumpster, and also “picked up one cartridge case and threw it in an unknown location, causing a delay in the investigation,” the report says.

Croaker told police he saw Burch-Estes pace back and forth, yelling “come on mother (expletive),” very aggressively.

Burch-Estes was later arrested on charges of destroying evidence, discharging a firearm where people might be endangered and possession of a stolen firearm.

As officers responded to the scene, Croaker called down to them from the second-story window.

“They were shooting behind my house, and I shot back at them,” he told them.

“(Croaker) expressed remorse and told police that he wished he could take back the events,” the report says.

Family devastated

Though Kory Lino’s mother, Patrice Lino, declined an interview, she said in a statement that she is still processing the tragedy and that her family’s lives are forever changed.

“Myself, Kory’s father and sister are devastated that a man can shoot a kid in the back of the head and just continue on with no consequences,” she said.

“Kory was headed for great things. He was an amazing kid and loved by so many.”

After her son’s death, she told the Review-Journal that he was a Green Valley High School senior who was interested in basketball and music.

She questioned whether race played a part in the shooting and insisted that she wants “the state of Nevada to take this seriously, and not just sweep it under the rug.”

She also expressed concern over Croaker’s background in the military after five former comrades came forward with two accounts of shootings that they claimed occurred while Croaker had been deployed, including one involving a bus of civilians in Afghanistan.

None of those who contacted the district attorney had personally witnessed the incidents they discussed.

Yanez said Croaker served three combat tours — two in Afghanistan, one in Iraq.

Police interviewed the comrades who had contacted the district attorney’s office after the shooting about his conduct on deployment. 

Yanez said the accounts in the police report were rumors and that while serving in the Army, his client created some enemies who continue to have vendettas against him.

“Facts matter, not rumors and personal animosity. Eddie was never disciplined by a court-martial and was honorably discharged from the military,” Yanez said.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter. 

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