When Armando and Gabriela Montes learned their son had been killed trying to stop a suspected intoxicated driver, it was the second time the Paso Robles family had been hit with sudden tragedy.
Now, they want only two things for the son they’ll never see alive again — justice and truth.
Jose Armando Montes Guillen, 21, sustained fatal injuries on Dec. 28 in Paso Robles after he was thrown to the ground by a vehicle driven by an allegedly intoxicated driver.
He was taken to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, where he succumbed to his injuries.
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Jose was part of a group outside Santa Maria Brewing Co. trying to prevent Sarah Hale, 21, from driving while intoxicated, according to Cmdr. Caleb Davis of the Paso Robles Police Department.
Hale was arrested on suspicion of two felonies: driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and hit-and-run.
Paso Robles police are working with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the incident, Davis said. The District Attorney’s Office has not yet filed charges against Hale.
On Thursday, Armando and Gabriela continued to grapple with Jose’s sudden death. They sat on a leather couch in their Paso Robles living room in a daze, surrounded by photos of their children and family members.
Gabriela stared down at her hands and Armando continually choked up while talking about his son.
“We’re really, really hurt that he’s not with us and she is free,” Armando Montes said.
This marks the second time in five years that the Montes family has lost a child. Their daughter, 19-year-old Jeanette Montes, died in November 2013 in a fiery rollover crash on Highway 101 just north of Highway 46 West.
Jose was in the car at the time of the crash, along with his younger brother, Jesús David, now 11 years old. A 2013 Tribune article describes bystanders rushing to the car to pull the three siblings to safety. The boys escaped with minor injuries, but Jeanette Montes was pronounced dead at the scene.
Armando Montes said Jeanette and Jose were best friends — she was always there for him, even helping him deal with school bullies.
After her death, Jose went through a rough patch. He fell in with an unsavory crowd and used drugs for a time.
He graduated from Liberty High School and took college classes in Fresno, but came back to Paso Robles after struggling to live far from his family on his own.
“He didn’t know how to deal with all of his anger inside of him,” Armando said. “We tried to help him — we tried to give him all our support.”
In October, Jose pleaded no contest to a first-degree burglary charge, according to county court records. He served three months in county jail and was on probation at the time of his death.
‘He had a good heart’
After Jose was released, Armando, who works at Santa Maria Brewing Co., helped him find a job there. Armando was initially very angry at his son after he came home, but he recognized Jose’s attempts to get his life back on track.
Jose had moved on from the influences that were dragging him down and hoped to take college classes in business administration, Armando said.
“I told him many times, ‘Mijo, I’m proud of you,’” Armando said
Mike Espy, manager at Santa Maria Brewing Co., described Jose as a “great kid.” He said it was clear Armando and Jose had a special bond, and working together at the brewery was good for them.
“I’m just so broken-hearted for Armando and their family,” he said.
Armando and Gabriela want Jose to be remembered as a good-hearted man who was beloved by family members. They called him “güero” because of his lighter skin tone and “Junior” because he was named after his father.
The negative image of Jose that has circulated through the community since his death pains his grieving family.
“We’re trying to celebrate his reunion with God and his sister,” Armando said.
Gabriela said her son loved rap music and even wrote his own songs. He enjoyed cooking, especially chicken sandwiches, and liked to run the stairs at Centennial Park for exercise.
Daniel McClelland met Jose — known to his friends as “Twinkie” — in class at Liberty High School in 2015. Jose introduced himself and invited McClelland to hang out. The two became inseparable soon after.
“He was always happy, always joyful about something,” McClelland said. “He had the biggest heart.”
McClelland said he knew Jose struggled with the death of his sister, whom he often talked about. Jose also cared for his brother, whom he tried to look after like his sister did for him.
“No matter what he’d done in the past, he always made sure to make everything right,” McClelland said.
Jose’s friends are hosting a candlelight vigil in his honor at Centennial Park on Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m.
His family started a GoFundMe page to raise money for expenses. To donate, visit gofundme.com/montes-family-expenses.
Tribune staff writer Gabby Ferreira contributed to this story.