Garden City shooting victim dies; suspected shooters not yet charged

Elena Pena, left, and Lyle Croson
Elena Pena, left, and Lyle Croson

Elena Pena, charged with aiding and abetting aggravated battery in the Thursday night shooting of Paul Russell Jr., is expected to face a stiffer charge now that Russell has died, an Ada County prosecutor said.

Witnesses told investigators that Pena, 27, instigated the confrontation. After Russell was gravely wounded, she then laughed and said “I told you so” before leaving with two men, Deputy Ada County Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu said.

Russell, 30, was killed by a single gunshot, the Ada County Coroner’s Office said in announcing the Meridian man’s death Tuesday afternoon. During Pena’s arraignment Monday, Akamatsu said that Russell was on life support and that doctors were waiting for family members to arrive before harvesting his organs, expected later that day.

Russell’s girlfriend witnessed the shooting and identified Pena’s boyfriend, Lyle Croson, of Nampa, as the shooter, Akamatsu said. Croson, 34, was arrested with Pena at a Boise gas station Friday afternoon, and it appeared they were preparing to leave town, the prosecutor said. A judge set Pena’s bond at $500,000.

Croson was booked into the Ada County Jail on a felony probation violation warrant but as of Tuesday had not been charged in connection with the shooting. Investigators also say the other man at the scene is a suspect in the shooting, but no other information was available Tuesday.

In a joint news release Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors and Garden City police said they expect to amend the charges against Pena within the next two weeks. Prosecutors are reviewing what the new charge or charges will be, Akamatsu said Tuesday.

The shooting was reported about 7:45 p.m. Thursday near West 39th and Stockton streets in Garden City.

Russell, his girlfriend and another friend drove from Meridian to Garden City after getting a call from a friend who was arguing with Pena and needed a ride, Akamatsu said in court Monday. While they were en route, they overheard the argument via an apparently inadvertent cellphone call from the friend.

When Russell and the others arrived, they saw a car, later identified as a Chrysler 300, that also had just arrived, the witnesses told investigators. Russell and his male friend got out of the car, and “all of a sudden the two men who were in the gray boxy car get out and start shooting,” Akamatsu said.

“Elena Pena is then heard laughing and saying, ‘I told you so,’ ” before fleeing with the shooters, Akamatsu said.

Garden City detectives investigated the case overnight, and Pena and Croson were arrested Friday afternoon with a car that “appeared to be packed with all their belongings,” the prosecutor said. She said Croson had $700 in cash and 10 grams of methamphetamine on him, and Pena had 2.2 grams of meth in her purse.

Pena initially denied being at the shooting scene, according to Akamatsu, then later said: “That’s not how it’s supposed to have happened. I was just trying to get a ride out of there.”

Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447