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Winchester homicide

Police vehicles sit outside an apartment building on the east side of Elko, where a homicide was reported early Sunday morning.

ELKO — Initial investigation reveals that a man might have killed another man in self-defense during a fight early Sunday morning.

Elko police are investigating the homicide of Clinton Hopper, 32, who was killed Sunday morning in his girlfriend’s apartment by Frank Criswell.

Criswell, 28, and the apartment renter, Alesha Piccinini, 29, had gone on a date the evening before, Elko Police Lt. Rich Genseal said. The two had met a few weeks ago. They returned to Piccinini’s apartment at about 3 a.m. Sunday.

At about 6:40 a.m., Hopper entered the apartment. He was in a relationship with Piccinini and had a key to the apartment, Detective Dennis Price said.

When Criswell got up to see who had entered the apartment, Hopper allegedly hit him in the head with a blunt object, which police believe was a skateboard. The two men then began fighting and punching each other, Genseal said.

At some point, Criswell grabbed a .45-caliber pistol that belonged to him and shot Hopper once through the neck. Genseal said at the time, Hopper — a 6-foot, 5-inch tall man who weighed 235 pounds — was on top of the 5-foot, 8-inch tall, 165-pound Criswell and choking him. Criswell claimed he was beginning to black out.

“(Criswell) felt threatened for his life, which constituted the gunshot,” Genseal said.

After Hopper was shot, Criswell was able to get out from underneath the victim. He unloaded his gun and began performing CPR on Hopper, Genseal said. Criswell also told Piccinini, who was in the room during the incident, to call 911.

Hopper was transported to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital and pronounced dead. Criswell also went to the hospital, as he had a sizable bump on his head from the skateboard, Genseal said, but he has been released.

There is no indication Criswell and Hopper knew each other, Price said. It also appears Criswell did not know Piccinini had a boyfriend.

“Mr. Hopper and Mr. Criswell did not know each other,” Price said. “They had never met before.”

Hopper was not living in Piccinini’s apartment, police said. He was from the Sacramento area in California, but worked as a construction company foreman and traveled a lot for work, Price said. He and Piccinini had apparently met about a year ago, when he was doing a job in the area.

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He drove into Elko the night before his death, Price said.

Police do not have a toxicology report on Hopper yet. Criswell and Piccinini had been drinking the night before, Genseal said.

Criswell has not been arrested, but he has been advised to keep in contact with police, Genseal said. The investigation is ongoing.

“We cannot determine that there is malice aforethought on this,” Genseal said. “All indications are kind of leaning somewhat towards a justifiable homicide.”

The Elko County District Attorney’s Office will decide if the homicide was justifiable, Genseal said. If that is the ruling, the police case will be closed and no criminal charges against Criswell will be filed.

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