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Infamy and Fortune

An alleged Temple Street gang member who received a $290,000 settlement from the city of Los Angeles in 2002 after rogue Rampart Officer Rafael Perez said police planted drugs on him, has been charged with the murder of a Palmdale man.

Twenty-six-year-old Roy Andres Montes is accused of killing 58-year-old Travis McMillon on May 15 at a small party in Lancaster. Police also say Montes is a suspect in the shooting death of a Los Angeles man in 2002.

Montes spent 23 months in jail on the bogus drug charges resulting from the two false arrests in 1996 by officers Rafael Perez, Nino Durden and other Rampart CRASH officers.

"It is sad," said L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Hayden Zacky. "From a financial point of view, he had the opportunity to start his life over with and get away from the gang lifestyle, and he is back to his old tricks. If I was him I would have moved far away from here and started a new life, a nice comfortable legal life."

A half-dozen people were partying at a Lancaster apartment when Montes showed up around 4:15 a.m. Witnesses said he left with McMillon and, a few minutes later, they heard gunshots coming from the garage. McMillon stumbled back into the apartment and collapsed on the living-room floor. Montes ran away and his truck was found a short distance away. He had been living at the E-Z Motel in Lancaster for several weeks.

The L.A. County Coroner’s Office said McMillon was shot twice in the chest and once in the left armpit. He was pronounced dead at Antelope Valley Hospital at 5:08 a.m. Montes was arrested on June 21 in the Rampart area by a state parole surveillance team.

Montes had two encounters with the renegade Rampart cops. On August 23, 1996, he was arrested with three others after Perez, his partner Nino Durden and anti-gang officers from the 77th Division busted up a Temple Street gang party in the 500 block of West 52nd Street. Perez later said they were looking for members of the Temple Street clique of the Tokers and a murder suspect named Stymie. Perez said he witnessed Montes drop a bundle of rock cocaine on the ground.

On October 1, 1996, Montes, out on bail, was arrested again by CRASH officers on the corner of Alvarado and Temple streets for selling cocaine. Montes claimed that the officers hid behind a bush before they pushed him down a hillside, beat him up, then told him he was being filmed for an LAPD police show on Channel 13.

It would be nearly three years before the truth would come out, and Montes pleaded guilty to both charges.

In 2000, Perez testified that Durden planted the drugs on Montes at the gang party because the alleged gang member was known by them to "hang out, sell, smoke" rock cocaine around the 101 freeway and Alvarado. Perez also testified that Montes came to the police station several months after he had done some time in jail to speak with him. According to Perez’s statement, Montes wanted to know why Perez and his partner Durden had set him up. Perez said he denied the accusation, and Montes left.

"Perez chose people that he thought were criminals, and just ignored the fact that you actually have to catch them committing a crime, and that is what he did to Montes," said Montes’ former civil rights attorney, James Muller. "Perez sent a message that there was no law, and it created an atmosphere of lawlessness."

On June 14, 2000, the two Rampart cases against Montes were dismissed. Montes was still not a free man. He was in custody on an unrelated charge of assault with a deadly weapon for an attempted attack in Pomona. In addition to Perez and Durden, seven officers were prosecuted over the Rampart scandal. The City Attorney’s Office has so far settled 144 cases for an estimated sum of $56,450,599. Forty additional cases are still pending.

Montes has continued to have run-ins with police. In 2002, eight months after he received his Rampart money, Montes was held on suspicion of murder in the death of 39-year-old Pedro Soto. LAPD Northeast Homicide Detective Jose Carrillo said that Montes was in his room at the Olive Motel on Sunset Boulevard with Soto and another alleged Temple Street gang member when the shooting occurred. Soto’s girlfriend, Edith Irene Mejia, told police that she heard the shots from a neighboring room and saw Montes and his friend drive away in Montes’ red BMW.

When police arrived, they found Soto’s body slumped over a planter outside the motel room. Inside the room, police found Montes’ checkbook and belongings. A few days later, Montes and his friend were picked up for questioning and arrested on parole violations. But murder charges were never filed because police couldn’t prove that Montes pulled the trigger. The body of their key witness — 42-year-old Mejia — was discovered in the trunk of a sport-utility vehicle in Van Nuys six months ago. Thirty-five-year-old Paul Alan Ott, an entertainment-industry grip, has been charged with her death. Another woman told police that Ott forced her to help him put Mejia’s body in his vehicle, and then raped her.

Montes is being held at Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. He is due in court July 29.

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