Friday, September 22, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Friday, September 22, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Police & FBI Snitch|Blamed for a Murder

LAS VEGAS (CN) - After Las Vegas Metro Police and the FBI made a violent felon an informant, he murdered a father of four to keep it a secret, the dead man's family claims in court.

Instead of jailing a violent felon for life, officers freed him long enough to murder Eric Montoya, then lied about his being an informant, Montoya's four children and common-law wife claim in a Jan. 7 lawsuit in Federal Court.

Maria Landeros, the mother of Montoya's four sons, claims the FBI-led Las Vegas Safe Streets Gang Task Force made Raul "Sparks" Gonzalez an informant, though he was not qualified for it due to convictions for violent felonies.

Gonzalez is a "high-ranking member" of the 28th Street gang, a criminal organization engaged in "murder, robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking and the illegal firearms transactions," the Montoyas says the complaint.

While Gonzalez was jailed on a gun charge in December 2013 and facing life in prison after a 2011 robbery, Landeros says Las Vegas Metro Police Det. David Fink and others recruited him to be a police informant. He was to provide information on the 28th Street gang to the Las Vegas Safe Streets Task Force, led by the FBI and including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).

Fink - who is not named as a defendant - knew Gonzalez as a "prolific member and 'shot-caller' within the 28th Street gang," and helped recruit him as an informant, though he should have been barred because of a 2002 conviction for voluntary manslaughter with use of a deadly weapon with the intent to promote, further, or assist a criminal gang, Landeros says in the complaint.

The Clark County District Attorney's Office on Dec. 20, 2013 dropped 10 of 12 pending charges against Gonzalez, and he pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery and one count of conspiracy, with sentencing scheduled for April 2014. The judge released him without bail after accepting "a deal cut by federal agents and local authorities," and simply warned him: "Stay out of trouble and keep in contact with police," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported at the time.

Eleven days later, on New Year's Eve, Gonzalez was riding in a truck with Eric Montoya and Montoya's niece, whom Gonzalez was dating and who was driving, when North Las Vegas police Officer Randy Salyer stopped them for a traffic violation.

Salyer found an unregistered handgun in the truck, yet allowed all three to leave, though Gonzalez admitted the gun was his and there was an active misdemeanor warrant for Montoya, according to the complaint.

"Officer Salyer learned that Gonzalez was a LVMPD confidential informant when he ran Gonzalez through the police database" and "was told to allow the group to depart without arrest or citation based on Gonzalez's confidential informant status," Landeros says.

Salyer is not named as a defendant.

After seeing Gonzalez released though he'd admitted possessing the unregistered handgun, Landeros says, Montoya suspected Gonzalez was working for the police and he told her so several days later.

"He told me: 'Babe, I think he's an informant. Don't ever repeat it. Don't ever say nothing about it,'" Landeros told the Review-Journal.

Landeros says Safe Streets Task Force officers knew that "Montoya rationally concluded that Gonzalez was a confidential informant," and that Gonzalez told them "he was worried that Montoya would speak to others and ruin the value Gonzalez possessed to the task force," which could send him to prison.


Landeros says Gonzalez spent several hours on Jan. 13, 2014 using his police-provided cellphone to try to contact Montoya, who ignored him and told his son Carlos to not answer the door if anyone knocked.

After going to bed around 4 a.m., Landeros says, Carlos heard five rapid gunshots, rushed downstairs, and found "his father on the ground behind a closed front door bleeding from gunshot wounds."

Landeros and Montoya's three other sons then "watched as their father cried in pain and slowly bled to death in the living room of their home."

A neighbor saw Gonzalez fleeing in a stolen car, and police caught him with an unregistered .357 revolver, which they say he used to fire five times through the closed door, striking Montoya twice, according to the lawsuit and the Review-Journal.

Gonzalez later claimed the Safe Streets Task Force had given him the revolver, that it only fired blanks, and that the task force "wanted to see if Gonzalez was committed to working for them enough to eliminate a risk that could expose him as a confidential informant," according to the complaint.

"They're aware that there's times that you're gonna be armed and that you're gonna have to defend yourself," and "from A to B was to be done in a certain way to see how one moves from A to B and then to see if they sign you on," Gonzalez told homicide detectives, according to the complaint. The lawsuit cites this as a quotation ("As Gonzales told the homicide detectives ... during a recorded interview.")

In the weeks after the murder, Landeros says, neither police nor the FBI told her that Gonzalez was an informant or admitted their role in putting him back on the streets, and the family had to delay Montoya's funeral while they raised money to bury him.

Gonzalez, 34, is a career criminal with a history of violence spanning 15 years, including a conviction for the 1999 stabbing death of a rival gang member, for which Gonzalez pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and spent time in prison, the Review-Journal reported.

Police and the FBI denied Gonzalez was an informant for the gangs task force and said they did not have a hand in releasing him from jail after the 2011 robbery, according to the Review-Journal.

However, the newspaper also reported that Clark County Chief Judge David Barker in June 2014 unsealed a Dec. 20, 2013, letter from Las Vegas Police seeking Gonzalez's release from jail.

The letter asked: "At the request of the detectives of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department ... the above Defendant will be entering a plea in the above case today. The detectives have also requested that the Defendant be released after entry of plea in this case."

In September 2014, Barker sentenced Gonzalez to life in prison without parole for the two charges remaining from that crime.

Landeros and her sons seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, wrongful death, municipal and vicarious liability, negligence and emotional distress.

Named as defendants are FBI agents Richard Smith and Marthy LNU (last name unknown), Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Las Vegas Metro Police Dets. David Sazer and Michael Twomey, Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Danielle K. Pieper, and Raul Gonzalez, whose named is misspelled "Gonzales" in the complaint.

Las Vegas Police do not comment on active lawsuits against it.

The Montoyas' attorney Casey Landis could not be reached by telephone Tuesday evening.

Landeros told the Review-Journal that her common-law husband was not a criminal or a gang member, that he'd met Gonzalez and liked him.

The newspaper searched court records on Montoya and found "some minor run-ins with the law, including a gross misdemeanor conviction for carrying a concealed weapon eight years ago. The pending arrest warrants he faced were for failing to complete counseling for domestic violence and not having his dog vaccinated, both misdemeanors."

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.