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The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office has released more details about a fatal officer-involved shooting outside of the Fort Morgan Walmart involving a man wanted for stabbing his aunt and cousin to death in New Mexico. Dustin Montano, 31, was leaving the store at 13000 Barlow Road at about 8 a.m. on May 24 when he was confronted and shot seven times by the Morgan County sheriff and undersheriff. He died on May 25 after being flown by helicopter to Medical Center of the Rockies for care. Leading up to the shooting, the sheriff’s office had received information about a stolen red Volkswagen Jetta driven by Montano that was possibly traveling to the Fort Morgan area. A short time later, dispatchers received information that the suspect’s cell phone had been pinged at locations in Morgan County. At about 7:30 a.m., the Jetta was found parked and empty at Walmart.
Deputy Steve Berlanga parked a short distance away in his marked car to monitor the vehicle, while Undersheriff Dave Martin parked nearby in an unmarked vehicle with a clear view of the Jetta. Sheriff Jim Crone, also in an unmarked car, parked on the south side of the building where the view of the Jetta was limited, the sheriff’s office said. At some point, the decision was made between Undersheriff Martin and Sheriff Crone to try to arrest Montano when he returned to the car. Undersheriff Martin was the first to spot Montano walking back to the Jetta. Deputies say he was carrying a grocery bag in his hand, but no weapon was visible. Undersheriff Martin started driving toward the driver’s side of the car, while Sheriff Crone drove up to the rear and parked behind the Jetta.
CSP Trooper Ryan Eldridge, Cpl. Ken Nelson and Deputy Berlanga followed nearby and pulled up facing the car near Undersheriff Martin, the sheriff’s office said. While Montano was still outside of the vehicle, Undersheriff Martin and Sheriff Crone got out of their vehicles and identified themselves as “police officers” and yelled “don’t move” at Montano, according to the sheriff’s office. Montano then got into the Jetta, slammed the door and started directing his attention to the front passenger seat area – leading Sheriff Crone to believe Montano would start the car and ram his patrol vehicle in an attempt to escape, the sheriff’s office said. Seconds later, the driver’s door to the Jetta flew open and Montano began to leave the car. The sheriff’s office said the suspect’s right hand came out of the car first, and both Undersheriff Martin and Sheriff Crone believed he was holding what appeared to be a handgun.
That’s when Undersheriff Martin and Sheriff Crone fired multiple shots at the suspect who then fell to the ground. In total, seven of the eight rounds fired hit Montano, and the other bullet hit the Jetta, the sheriff’s office said. Despite several surgeries, Montano died from his injuries. The object in Montano’s hand fell to the pavement and was discovered to be a black lock-blade knife with the blade open. Hours before Montano was shot, Albuquerque police investigators determined that Montano had used that knife in the stabbing deaths of his 53-year-old aunt, Debra Martinez and her 17-year-old daughter, Irisa Montano.
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