Montgomery testifies in his murder trial
Michael Montgomery, accused of first-degree murder for shooting Chris Gallegos in March 2017, testified before the jury in his trial Tuesday, giving his story and spending much of the afternoon answering questions from prosecutors on the witness stand.
Montgomery, 47, has been in custody since he was arrested in Oregon in September 2017, where he ended up after fleeing Rifle following the shooting death of Gallegos, then 28 and Montgomery’s son-in-law.
“Why did you shoot Chris?,” defense attorney Chip McCrory asked Montgomery.
Montgomery and the defense say Gallegos came out of the Acadia Apartments and aimed a gun at Montgomery. Gallegos said, “I have a gun, too,” according to Montgomery. “I was scared for my life,” Montgomery said on the stand.
The shooting happened so fast, Montgomery said, that he barely had time to think.
Montgomery said he had traveled to the apartment to confront another man, Anthony Bracamontes, about taking heroin belonging to Montgomery from Desirae, Montgomery’s daughter, and failing to pay.
Bracamontes and Montgomery had resolved their differences, but then Gallegos exited pointing a gun, according to Montgomery.
Gallegos had said, “I’ve got a gun, too,” according to Montgomery.
Throughout his testimony, Montgomery said he wanted to make Bracamontes pay for ripping him off.
“Everybody knew why I was coming to see him,” Montgomery said.
Prosecutors pressed Montgomery for several minutes on his intentions for going over to the apartment, his Facebook messages the night before, and his flight to Oregon after the shooting.
Montgomery said he suspected he would get into a fight when he went to confront Bracamontes.
He brought gloves, and when he got to the apartment, where he knew both Bracamontes and Gallegos would be, he brought gloves that would protect his hands. “More than likely I was going to get into a fight, yes,” he said. He could not recall where he got the gloves.
Montgomery testified he said “hey” to Gallegos, who was on the balcony of the apartment complex, when he was walking up to the building.
He had backed into his parking spot expecting to make a quick getaway.
Montgomery said he spotted Bracamontes’ brother on the steps leading up the building and saw he had a gun in his waistband and took it. The brother seemed shocked, and didn’t fight.
Montgomery said he went up to the apartment, and Gallegos, Bracamontes and two others, including a pregnant woman, were inside. He testified that he didn’t want to start a fight around the pregnant woman and got Bracamontes outside.
Once they got downstairs, Montgomery and Bracomontes seemed to make up. Montgomery set the gun on one of the mailboxes in the yard, and had a cigarette with Bracamontes.
Gallegos must have seen the gun on the mailbox, prompting him to come down, Montgomery said.
Deputy District Attorney Ben Sollars questioned Montgomery on a number of Facebook messages he had with people, including his daughter Kayla.
Kayla and Gallegos were going through a divorce at the time, according to other witnesses.
The messages included Kayla telling her father that she wanted Gallegos to get “messed up,” and Montgomery telling Kayla: “Chris is ducked.” (Sollars said that was likely an AutoCorrected word.)
“Was [Kayla] upset with [Gallegos] the day before he died?” Sollars asked.
“Yeah. I don’t want to speculate why,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery also told several people over Facebook that he expected he was going to prison the next day.
After the shooting, Montgomery said he drove away and left the Toyota Scion belonging to his daughter, Kayla Gallegos, at someone’s house in Rifle. Prosecutors asked whether he went to Kayla’s house, and played a clip of a phone call between investigators and Kayla.
Kayla said her car was a white Toyota, then a voice in the background whispered “Avalon.” Kayla then said it was an Avalon. Montgomery denied being the voice in the recording, and Kayla insisted in her own testimony that she didn’t say “Avalon,” but “Scion.”
“Why didn’t you stay and face the music?” McCrory asked Montgomery during direct examination.
“I was scared. I figured, Chris had a lot of friends, and I didn’t think I’d be safe in jail, for one,” Montgomery said.
Other than a ride with a trucker that went for around 100 miles, Montgomery said he walked the hundreds of miles to Oregon. He said he would stop in towns to pick up supplies and “a gallon of alcohol,” and had “plenty of drugs” to keep him going. It’s unclear how he paid his way, except he said he had $70 when he left Rifle.
On April 28, 2017, he signed into an Ontario, Oregon, program for transients as “Randy Webb.”
The defense and prosecution rested Tuesday, and will begin closing arguments Wednesday before the jury begins deliberations.
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