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April 20, 2014

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Prosecutors now allege suspect in deadly carjacking was drunk

Defense attorney wonders if client was drugged

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Metro Police

Jesus Magdaleno, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, and Felix Cruz are shown waving their arms in the back of a pickup that police say was stolen from the valet area of the Flamingo on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. The men suffered fatal injuries when the truck crashed into an SUV at Flamingo Road and Valley View Boulevard.

Click to enlarge photo

James Robert Montgomery

New charges filed today allege the man accused of stealing a California Highway patrolman’s pickup and subsequently killing the officer and his brother-in-law was drunk at the time.

Filing of the amended complaint caused James Montgomery’s attorneys to waive his right to a speedy trial.

The preliminary hearing for Montgomery, 29, of Tustin, Calif., is expected to take all day and was set for Oct. 4 to give both parties time to prepare for the driving under the influence charges that come on top of murder, kidnapping, grand theft auto, burglary and robbery charges filed last week.

Montgomery’s blood alcohol level was .197, more than twice the legal limit, at the time of the Aug. 18 wreck, prosecutor Michael Staudaher said. Montgomery’s attorneys want time to hunt for more evidence. Montomery, a Whole Foods employee, may have been drugged that day, said Michael Becker, Montgomery's attorney.

Toxicology reports still are pending. Additionally, Becker said the defense planned to carefully review surveillance footage to study Montgomery’s movements.

The accident occurred when California Highway Patrolman Jesus Manuel Magdaleno Jr. and Felix Brandon Cruz III, in Las Vegas for Magdaleno’s bachelor party, were loading luggage into the officer’s truck at the Flamingo. While the loading was under way, Montgomery got behind the wheel and drove off, according to police reports.

Magdaleno ran after the truck and jumped in the cargo bed with Cruz, but Montgomery continued driving, police say.

Montgomery sped through three red lights on the Interstate 15 overpass before smashing into an SUV in front of the Rio, according to police.

Magdaleno and Cruz were thrown from the bed of the pickup. Magdaleno died at the scene; Cruz died days later after being transported to University Medical Center.

Becker said that while he thought evidence would reveal his client was drinking, the entire incident was out of character and had shocked those close to Montgomery, who doesn’t have a violent past and was in Las Vegas on a spontaneous vacation with his girlfriend.

“Like most people, he came to Las Vegas to have a good time,” Becker said.

Becker said Montgomery’s girlfriend is supportive and likely would attend the preliminary hearing. She, too, is anxious to discover how this could have happened, Becker said.

Montgomery, who appeared in court shackled and with a white bandage wrapped around his forehead, remains in the Clark County Detention Center without bail.

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