Man In Texas Shootout ID'd As Paroled Colorado Inmate

Tom Clements (Photo from Colorado Dept. of Corrections)
By  | 

DECATUR, Texas (AP/CBS) — A man who led Texas authorities on a 100 mph car chase that ended in a shootout Thursday and may be linked to the slaying of Colorado's state prison chief is a paroled prison inmate, officials said.

The Denver Post reported that the man is 28-year-old Evan Spencer Ebel. A federal law enforcement official confirmed that identity to The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Legal records show Ebel was convicted of several crimes in Colorado dating back to 2003, including assaulting a prison guard in 2008. He apparently was paroled, but Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan said she could not release information on prisoners because of the ongoing investigation into Tom Clements' death.

KCNC's Rick Sallinger reports that Ebel, 28, was being kept alive on life support and was not expected to survive.

Clements, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was killed after he answered the door at his home in Monument Tuesday night. Texas authorities are checking whether the black Cadillac with Colorado plates in the car chase was the same vehicle spotted near the Clements' home the night he was killed.

"He didn't plan on being taken alive," said Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins, according to KCNC. "It didn't look like he wanted to be caught or taken alive."

Ebel has been identified as a member of a white supremacist gang, Sallinger reports. The gang is called "211s," a.k.a. the Brotherhood of Aryan Alliance, and was founded in 1995 by habitual criminal Benjamin Davis at Colorado's Denver County Jail. Ebel is also being investigated in the death of Domino's pizza delivery man, Nathan Leon.

The chase began when Texas officers tried to pull over a known drug suspect in Montague County Thursday, when someone inside the vehicle started firing back and drove away. The Montague Sheriff's office said the deputy who first approached the vehicle, James Boyd, was shot and is expected to make a full recovery.

Eventually the suspect crashed the Cadillac in Decatur, near Highway 380 and US 287. At some point, he was shot in the head and taken to an area hospital.

Clements is the fifth criminal justice official in the United States to be targeted since the beginning of the year, including the still unsolved murder of a Texas prosecutor shot dead outside a courthouse in January, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman reports.

Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the District Attorney's Office in Santa Clara County California, found that there were 35 such attacks or attempted attacks between 2010 and 2012. That's nearly as many as all the attacks on public officials over the prior nine years. The primary motive, McGovern told Strassman, appears to be revenge.

"It's very worrisome," McGovern said. "No government agency besides maybe the secret service provides 24-hour protection. We can't do that."

Clements, who ran prisons in two states for 30-plus years, could have potentially built up a number of grievances and grudges with guys he had contact with - but officials haven't yet zeroed in on who the suspect could be.

"There could be any one of a number of people who would have a motive to perpetrate a crime like this against Mr. Clements," Lt. Kramer told Strassman.

Investigators were flying to Texas to see if Ebel was linked to Clements' slaying and the killing Sunday of Nathan Leon, a Denver pizza delivery man. Denver police said there was a "strong connection" between that killing and the Texas situation but did not elaborate, other than to confirm their detectives were en route.

In Colorado, where Clements' killing shocked the state, officials were hopeful.

"We don't know yet exactly whether this is the guy," Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters Thursday afternoon. "There's some indication. I hope it is."

Denver police spokeswoman Raquel Lopez said detectives from Denver and Golden were working with El Paso County, Colo., sheriff's officials, who are investigating Clements' death, and she couldn't comment on evidence from the car that crashed in Texas.

Montague County sheriff's deputy James Boyd tried to pull over the Cadillac at about 11 a.m. Thursday, though officials wouldn't elaborate on the reason.

The driver opened fire on Boyd, wounding him, Wise County Sheriff David Walker said at an afternoon news conference in Decatur. He then fled south before crashing into a semi as he tried to elude his pursuers.

Walker said Colorado investigators were heading to Texas to determine whether the man is connected to Clements' killing. Boyd was wearing a bulletproof vest and is at a Fort Worth hospital, authorities said. Officials had said he wasn't seriously injured but later said his condition was unknown.

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said the man appeared to be a white man in his 30s. The man shot at Hoskins four times as the chief tried to set up a road block to halt him. The man left his car after it crashed and opened fire on the authorities around him, Hoskins said.

"He wasn't planning on being taken alive," Hoskins said. In a brief interview, he added that the man had no identification on him.

El Paso County sheriff's investigators have been looking for a dark, late-model car, possibly a Lincoln or a Cadillac, that a neighbor spotted near Clements' home around the time of the shooting. Lt. Jeff Kramer refused to say what other clues may have been found after officers canvassed Clements' neighborhood.

Clements, 58, was killed as he answered the door to his home Tuesday night in Monument, a town of rolling hills and alpine trees north of Colorado Springs. His death stunned law enforcement colleagues in Colorado and Missouri, where he spent most of his career as a highly respected corrections official.

Police haven't said if they think his death was linked to his job.

Denver's KMGH-TV reported Thursday that Clements may have put a bicycle up for sale for $1,200 on Craigslist. Kramer told the station, "I can't speak to the efforts behind this tip, or the level we are giving it."

In recent weeks, Clements had requested chemicals to plan for the execution of a convict on Colorado's death row and denied a Saudi national's request to serve out the remainder of a sentence in his home country. Officials refused to say whether they were looking at those actions as possible motives.

Clements came to Colorado in 2011 after working three decades in the Missouri prison system. Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman Mandi Steele said Thursday the department was ready to help in the probe if asked.

"Tom regularly commented that corrections is inherently a dangerous business, and that's all that I'll say," said Alison Morgan, a Colorado corrections spokeswoman who worked closely with Clements.

Officials in positions like Clements' get a deluge of threats, according to people who monitor their safety. But it can be hard sorting out which ones could lead to violence. A U.S. Department of Justice study found that federal prosecutors and judges received 5,250 threats between 2003 and 2008, but there were only three attacks during that time period.

The last public official killed in Colorado in the past 10 years was Sean May, a prosecutor in suburban Denver. An assailant killed May as he arrived home from work. Investigators examined May's court cases, but the case remains unsolved.