07/03/12 – The death of 22-year-old up and coming U.S. journalist Armando Montano was an accident and unrelated to his profession, reported Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). Montano’s body was found on June 30 in an elevator shaft in a building near his apartment in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City. Before the PGR made public statements today, speculation had arisen that his murder was connected to his profession, particularly because of the recent string of violence against journalists in Mexico, which has led to seven deaths, one disappearance, and a handful of attacks since late April. However, the PGR’s initial investigation into Montano’s unexpected death has shown it to be an accident and entirely separate from his work as a journalist. According to La Crónica de Hoy, Montano was apparently crushed to death in the elevator after his clothing got caught on a cog in the machinery.
Montano’s case particularly grabbed headlines the past few days, not just because the death of a journalist when foul play is suspected is a threat to freedom of expression and print, but also because he was a U.S. citizen. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since 1992, only two U.S. journalists have been killed in Mexico in connection with their profession – Bradley Will in 2006, and Philip True in 1998. While Mexico is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists to work, it appears not to be the case for U.S. journalists assigned there. Thus Montano’s nationality initially heightened the scrutiny around his case. However, given the PGR’s results from the preliminary investigation, it appears it was purely an accident and that he was not targeted for his line of work. The U.S. embassy in Mexico has said it will continue to monitor the on-going investigation.
Born in Massachusetts and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Montano received his bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College in Iowa before beginning his career as a journalist. In the past few years, he had interned with a number of newspapers, most notably the New York Times, Seattle Times, and Colorado Independent. In June he moved to Mexico City to begin his summer internship with the Associated Press, who reported that Montano was not on assignment when he was killed. Said an AP editor based in Mexico City of Montano, “In his short time with the AP, he won his way into everyone’s hearts with his hard work, his effervescence, and his love of the profession.” Montano was planning to study journalism in Spain this fall.