Armando Montano: Account of "accidental" finding in journalist's death disputed

Categories: Media, News

Armando-Montano-2.jpg
Armando Montaño.
Update, 2:15 pm: Since I posted the account below concerning the mysterious death of 22-year-old journalist Armando Montaño in Mexico City, his family has received new information from the Associated Press that contradicts many of the details presented in the Mexican press (particularly an article that appeared in La Cronica de Hoy) concerning the investigation. According to the family's sources, there has been no -- repeat, no -- official declaration yet that the death was accidental.

"The Cronica account is wrong, along with several details, including his clothing being caught in the elevator," Diane Alters, Montaño's mother, informs me. "His clothing did not get caught. The Cronica has caused lots of anguish and confusion for everybody."

Although the Associated Press intern's death on the eve of national elections in Mexico appeared to many journalists as highly suspicious, there has been no evidence presented to date of foul play. "The Associated Press is in close contact with investigators in Mexico City," says AP spokesman Paul Colford, "and they're telling us the investigation into Armando Montaño's death remains open."

Original post: Mexican authorities have concluded that the death of Armando Montaño, a promising young journalist from Colorado Springs whose body was found June 30 in an elevator shaft in Mexico City, was an accident and not related to his work for the Associated Press. The announcement comes after days of speculation that the 22-year-old intern's death was possibly connected to a series of violent attacks on journalists in the country's escalating power struggles among drug cartels.

The Procuraduria General de la Republica, Mexico's attorney general's office, informed reporters that its preliminary investigation has determined that Montaño's clothing got caught in elevator machinery in a building near his apartment and that he was fatally injured in the incident. Full details of the circumstances have not yet been released.

Montaño had only been in Mexico City a few weeks after graduating from Grinnell College with a bachelor's degree in Spanish. But even so, he'd had several stories published under his byline at the AP bureau, from African elephants relocated to Mexico to a drug-related shootout among police officers at the airport.

An energetic, charismatic young man who liked being in the middle of the action, Montaño already had substantial experience as a journalist for someone so young. While working for the Palmer High School newspaper in Colorado Springs, he managed to interview actress Daryl Hannah and director John Sayles about their Colorado-based movie, Silver City. In 2007 he was chosen as one of sixteen guest columnists for that year's crop of "Colorado Voices" in the Denver Post. He went on to distinguish himself as an outstanding intern for the award-winning investigative unit at the Seattle Times, did multimedia reporting for the Colorado Independent, and helped cover the Iowa caucuses as an intern for the New York Times.

Montaño was the only son of Mario Montaño, chair of the anthropology department at Colorado College, and former Boston Globe writer and ex-Post assistant city editor Diane Alters. (Disclosure: While I didn't know Armando personally, Alters and I both teach in the journalism program at CC.) He had lived in a wide array of cultures, including time in Argentina and Costa Rica, and had planned to seek a master's degree in journalism at the University of Barcelona in the fall.

Read about another mysterious death -- this one more than fifty years old -- in Alan Prendergast's "The case of the kidnapped coed."



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14 comments
Aaron Aarons
Aaron Aarons

According to what I read in several other articles, he was found in an elevator shaft in an apartment building NEAR where he lived, not the building he lived in. Presumably, investigators would be looking into why he was in that building. Who was he visiting? Also, he is reported to have belonged to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Could his (presumed) gayness have been a motive for murder or related to it in other ways?

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting post, Jess. Thanks for sharing your observations about this sad, strange story.

Jess Duran
Jess Duran

A few days before Armando's death I helped my friend move into the building where he was living and said hello to him. The apartment where he lived in is known to have lots of expats and some great international parties -- so I've been to the building lots.  I WONDER...  A).  Did he really use the elevator often just to climb two sets of stairs? B). The doorman to the building is on guard 24/7... where was the guard during this day and what activity did he see? C). The street where the building is located is quite small and residential, but near lots of bars.. and near a main avenue where there are surveillance cameras. Though I would like to believe the police/investigators in Mexico City are as trained as the U.S.---the truth is that they are CERTAINLY not, and a deeper analysis of this would make any parent much more at ease.

Rvere44
Rvere44

" his family has received new information from the Associated Press that contradicts many of the details presented in the Mexican press " This is a no brainer, since it seems to always be the case between AP and other sources no matter where it is in the world...

mandm60
mandm60

When I first read this post, I couldn't help but wonder why AP has remained silent since the initial report and chosen not to run a follow-up story of any kind. And why would someone else run it first? Your disclosure made me feel a little bit more confident that the info shared here was accurate, since you live in the community where the Montano family live and work with one of Mando's parents. It's difficult to report on a story like this if you aren't talking to the sources first hand.  This does raise even more questions about the Cronica story and why it was reported the way it was. Is there anyone out there in a position to report on this? AP? WashPo? Case isn't closed yet. 

Alan Prendergast
Alan Prendergast

It's my understanding that Armando's employer, the Associated Press, is conducting its own review. And the US Embassy is reportedly "monitoring" the situation, whatever that means.

sfguy
sfguy

I don't consider this a case closed. Elevator accident with no one else present is almost a crime novel cliche. I hope further investigating is being done.

anagarza
anagarza

Jess, although it is obviously natural to be skeptical, as a Mexican citizen, I find your "CERTAINLY" quite offensive. And not to be judgmental here, but I honestly doubt you know much about Mexican politics or the police force OUTSIDE OF WHAT THE U.S. MEDIA REPORTS. For instance, I bet you didn't know that the Zetas, one of the most dangerous drug cartels in the country was a group of special force officers TRAINED BY THE U.S. to protect against the Zapatistas. The U.S. unleashed them in my country, and here we are. So U.S. training isn't what you think it is. The police and investigation force in high levels (federal and state) are rigorously trained, I more than assure you. There is a problem with corruption, but that has less to do with training and more to do with economics, and is most likely not playing a part in this particular case. It is insulting to even suggest that they haven't thought of the simple questions you posed above, I assure you the police force, especially that of Mexico city, is competent enough to undergo a small investigation like this one. Furthermore, although the problems in my country are many, I would have to say that the two biggest and most damaging are mostly due to the U.S.. First, the high drug demand and poor border security in the U.S. create the gist of the drug black market, thus perpetrating the so called 'drug war'. Additionally, the other problem, the most damaging to us, the people, are the sad, misleading media corporations. They, through a capitalist lens, seek to sell stories. And unfortunately, drama sells stories. Having access to American media through the TV and the internet, it deeply saddens me to see how exaggerated and sometimes blatantly INACCURATE the media reports the negative events, while no light is shed on ALL of the positive things that are going on here. Personally, I don't know much about Armando's case in particular, but have some faith in that, just like in any other country, a death doesn't necessarily mean a murder. And despite what this article ignorantly assumes, Mando merely reported on the police death at the airport, he had nothing to do with it. Millions of reporters reported about that incident and Mando's career was not nearly close to a level to be considered dangerous to any person of power in the country. If it were, trust me, there would be no question about whether it was a homicide or not. 

Cartermacleod
Cartermacleod

Jess Duran - Mondo's friend and former roommate here. can you email me at cartermacleod@hotmail.com?

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Exactly ... and the Mexican Sicarios don't operate in trite Hollywood clichés. If they want you dead, they'll slaughter you in public, then dump your decapitated corpse in the town square... along with the corpses of your wife and children.

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