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Families seek answers after deaths at Silver Nugget

Kris Velasquez said his father was killed on his first day at his new job at the Silver Nugget in North Las Vegas on Thursday morning.

Luis Lora said his best friend, Jeremias Cruz, was a kind-hearted family man.

Now the families and friends of both men who died at the small, locals’ casino are in shock, struggling to understand what happened.

North Las Vegas police shot and killed Cruz, who they said beat co-worker Edgardo Velasquez to death in an employees-only area in the casino.

Kris Velasquez said his family was notified about his father’s death, but they haven’t heard from police since, not even to give the family contact information for a detective who is working the case.

“There really isn’t anything that we’ve received,” he said. “We’re still waiting for police reports.”

Velasquez said his father was so excited to go to the Silver Nugget at the end of last week to fill out employee paperwork. Now this family is reeling from his father’s death and rushing to make funeral arrangements.

Lora, 27, of New York City, doesn’t understand what happened either. Both men were security guards at the casino, and the two were like family.

“Me and him, we were so tight,” he said. “People always thought we were related. We’re both Hispanic, and he’s from New Jersey, and I’m from New York.”

Lora last talked to Cruz before he moved back to the East Coast earlier this month. He said the story coming from police doesn’t make sense.

North Las Vegas police said Thursday that Cruz was having an “agitated chaotic episode,” described only as an “abnormal, aggressive behavior” that can be caused by several factors.

At one point, officers used a less-than-lethal weapon to subdue the man, but Cruz wasn’t fazed, police said. As he continued toward the officers, “attempting to attack them,” one officer fired his weapon. Cruz died at University Medical Center.

“That’s not him,” Lora said of the 30-year-old Las Vegas resident. “He’s a family man. He was never a violent person. He was always about his kids and his music.”

Cruz, a father of four with a fifth due very soon, was a religious man. His spirituality was present in the rap songs Cruz wrote and performed under the stage name Destination.

Cruz was called “tio,” Spanish for uncle, by Lora’s children.

“We still don’t know how all this happened, why all this happened,” he said.

Lora’s ex-fiancee, Las Vegan Korina Perez, 23, said the depiction of Cruz, as if he were possessed or on drugs, doesn’t make sense.

“They make him sound like an animal, but he wasn’t like that,” Perez said.

It’s not clear if or why 64-year-old Velasquez was singled out during the violent beating. As of Friday, it was also unclear if the two men knew each other at all.

Before the fatal beating, Cruz tried to pick fights with other employees, department spokeswoman officer Ann Cavaricci said Friday. At least one other employee was attacked but wasn’t seriously injured.

The victim was led through the main casino to the back of the building where he was killed. No words were exchanged, she said.

Few additional details were available Friday. The department is running two investigations, into the homicide and the police shooting, and trying to piece everything together. It wasn’t clear, for example, how many times the officer fired or whether Cruz had a weapon.

“I can only imagine what his wife is going through,” Perez said. “Right now she doesn’t really want to talk to anyone. I’m trying to give her her space.”

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Find @WesJuhl on Twitter.

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