MEXICO CITY — Armando Montano, an aspiring journalist who was working this summer as a news intern for The Associated Press in the Mexican capital, was found dead early Saturday. He was 22 years old.

Montano's body was found in the elevator shaft of an apartment building near where he was living in the capital's Condesa neighborhood. The circumstances of his death were being investigated by Mexican authorities.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, resident arrived in Mexico City in early June after graduating from Grinnell College with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and a concentration in Latin American studies.

During his time in the bureau, Montano covered stories including the saga of nine young elephants from Namibia who wound up on an animal reserve in Mexico's Puebla state, and the shooting of three federal policemen at the Mexico City airport.

He was not on assignment at the time of his death. The U.S. embassy is monitoring the course of the investigation.

Montano had planned to attend a master's degree program in journalism at the University of Barcelona in the fall.

With his high energy and broad smile, Montano made scores of friends within weeks after his arrival in the Mexican capital.

"Armando was a smart, joyful, hardworking and talented young man," said Marjorie Miller, AP's Latin America editor based in Mexico City.

"He absolutely loved journalism and was soaking up everything he could," said Miller. "In his short time with the AP, he won his way into everyone's hearts with his hard work, his effervescence and his love of the profession."

In December and January, Montano covered the Iowa presidential caucuses as a news intern for The New York Times, and last year worked for several months as an intern covering policy and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C.

"Mando was a standout young journalist, with a rare passion and exuberance for life and for people," said Richard Berke, an assistant managing editor at The New York Times. "He accomplished so much and touched so many in a short time, and his potential was truly limitless."

Berke said that he arranged to have Montano help cover the caucuses because he was so impressed with the young reporter when they met earlier at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, said, "The loss of this vibrant young journalist is a shock to his colleagues and the long list of people who called Armando friend."

Montano had also been a multimedia and reporting intern at The Colorado Independent, an online news service; and a reporting and investigative intern at The Seattle Times.

At the Scarlet & Black, Grinnell College's student newspaper in Grinnell, Iowa, he worked as an editor and writer.

Montano was the recipient of an Ellen Masin Persina Scholarship from the National Press Club in 2008; a Newhouse Scholar with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2008; and a Chips Quinn Scholar from the Freedom Forum for Diversity in 2011. He belonged to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Journalists.

Born in Massachusetts, Montano was a fluent Spanish speaker who grew up in Colorado but lived for two years as a child in Costa Rica and spent time in Argentina and on the U.S.-Mexico border with his family.

He is survived by his parents, Diane Alters and Mario Montano, of Colorado Springs, who both teach at Colorado College.

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