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Community holds creative fundraiser to free alleged cop killer

The Free Spook Movement hosted a hip hop and poetry show at the Endorphin Power Company on Saturday to raise money in support of an individual who allegedly killed law enforcement officers.

Mivhael Armendariz was convicted of first-degree murder in 2003 for the death of sheriff’s deputy Damacio Montano and the attempted murder of Eric Montano, a state police officer.

The prosecution said the Montano brothers, who were off-duty at the time, were breaking up a bar fight when Armendariz killed one and injured the other.

However, according to Diana Crowson — Armendariz’s mother — and the Free Spook Movement, an organization that has been working to get Armendariz out of prison for the last two years, Armendariz was defending himself and his friend Nestor Chavez from an unprovoked attack by off-duty police and corrections officers.

Armendariz is a hip hop artist, poet and visual artist, Crowson said, so hosting a show that encompasses those mediums was done to honor his work.

Armendariz’s visual art was also auctioned off at the event.

Crowson said having her son in prison is both a financial burden and a strain on her family.

Phone calls to Armendariz, art supplies, new shoes and food items from the commissary are all expenses that Crowson takes care of, she said.

Crowson said Armendariz’s daughter will be celebrating her fifteenth birthday this month. He’s been in prison for all but the first year of her life.

“So the only daddy she knows is in a visiting room or behind glass and over the phone. She hasn’t been able to hug her daddy for two-and-a-half years,” she said.

Armendariz spent two years in solitary confinement after there was a murder in a different section of the prison, and Crowson believes he was put in solitary because he is classified as a gang member by the prison, she said.

She said a lawyer has been working on Armendariz’s case pro bono.

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His work included hiring a private investigator to examine the video of the shooting, Crowson said. However, Armendariz needs a criminal lawyer to take the case to court and only has half of the legal fees necessary.

Melissa, an organizer for the Free Spook movement, works in prisons as an educator and would only give her first name for fear of retaliation from her employer.

Melissa said she wanted to organize around Armendariz’s case specifically because he is a friend, but also because she believes in prison abolition.

“It is a theory of our society that prison is a harmful and unnecessary institution that is rooted in racism and it does not protect people,” she said. “It doesn’t make our communities safer and it is an intentionally established apparatus to incarcerate and now make money off of people of color, especially poor people.”

Crowson said the recent attention on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement have helped garner support for Free Spook.

She said the movement has also received support from The Red Nation, Unoccupy and the Southwest Organizing Project.

Community members attended the event for a wide range of reasons.

Andrew Lucero said he came to the event with a small flock of young men. He works at Serenity Mesa, a sober living house for people under 21 that is connected to the Endorphin Power Company. Lucero said he loves EPC and brings his residents to all of its events.

“It’s a safe place for them to come and have fun and when I was early sobriety it was hard for me to find things that were fun because I was so used to being inebriated. That was my way of having fun,” he said.

Lucero said there are not many resources for young people dealing with addiction.

“A lot of times the institution that Michael’s in, that’s the only option they have,” he said. “I think to stop the school to prison pipeline we need more money poured into rehab for all ages.”

Kindra Hill is a local poet who performed at the event. She knew some of the organizers through activist work in Albuquerque, she said.

“A lot of my poetry deals with different issues like implicit bias, a lot of political things like the prison industrial complex and more personal things and a lot of personal and political are intertwined together, so I gravitate to these types of events to perform and support,” she said.

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

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