Could the murder of Colorado Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements at his home on Tuesday night have been an ordered assassination from a white supremacist gang?
The Denver Post reports that is exactly what officials are investigating with the possible link to Evan Ebel, a 28-year-old parolee from the Denver area who was shot during a high-speed chase and shootout with authorities in Texas Thursday. Ebel was also identified as a member of white supremacist gang called the "211s" by The Denver Post.
Authorities have not confirmed that it was a gang-related "hit" job or if was a crime of opportunity.
Ebel led Texas authorities on a 100 mph car chase and may be linked to two Colorado murders, including that of Department of Corrections director Tom Clements. Ebel is also suspected as being involved in the slaying of Nathan Leon, a 27-year-old Dominos pizza delivery driver, who was found dead in Golden, Fox31 reports. Leon's body was reportedly found last Sunday and is thought to have been murdered during a pizza delivery.
Fox31 has also confirmed that a Dominos pizza box and uniform were found in the Cadillac that was involved in the Thursday chase and shootout in Texas.
The black car involved in the shootout matches descriptions of a dark colored, boxy "90s model" Cadillac or Lincoln that was spotted idling near Clements' home just before the shooting, Fox31 reports.
The Denver Post reports that the man involved in the shooting was driving the car around 100 miles per hour, shooting out the windows at officers.
The shootout took place around 11:20 a.m. on Thursday and that the shooter wounded local deputy identified as James Boyd, shooting him three times, once in the head and twice in the chest, according to the Texas-based Times Record News.
The suspect then crashed his car into a semi-truck rock hauler, The Wise County Messenger reports. After crashing into the 18-wheeler, the suspect attempted to flee on foot. “At that time he leaped out of his vehicle and opened fire on deputies," Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins told the Wise County Messenger. "They returned fire and the suspect hit the ground.”
Authorities say that that Ebel is hooked up to equipment for organ harvesting, and is brain dead.
Authorities have not said why they believe there could be a connection between the Texas shootout and the slaying of Clements and police have not confirmed that this car involved in the Texas shootout and chase is involved in anyway with the shooting in Colorado, according to 9News.
"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."
The Associated Press give more detail about Ebel, stating that the connections between Ebel and the Colorado killings remain murky:
El Paso County sheriff's officials did not return repeated messages Thursday. In a statement, Lt. Jeff Kramer said investigators will inspect evidence in Texas and would need crime lab analysis before they're able to determine whether the suspect is linked to Clements' shooting.
"These efforts take time," Kramer said.
Other links between Ebel and the Colorado killings aren't clear. Legal records show he 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 Clements' death.
Scott Robinson, a criminal defense attorney and media legal analyst, represented Ebel in 2003 and 2004. He said Ebel had been sentenced to a halfway house for a robbery charge in 2003 before he was accused in two additional robbery cases the following year that garnered prison sentences of three and eight years.
"I thought he was a young man who was redeemable, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the case," Robinson said, saying he didn't recall the details of the case.
Robinson said he knew Ebel before he got in trouble. He said Ebel was raised by a single father and had a younger sister who died in a car accident years ago.
Vicky Bankey said Ebel was in his teens when she lived across from him in suburban Denver until his father moved a couple of years ago. She remembers seeing Ebel once jump off the roof of his house. "He was a handful. I'd see him do some pretty crazy things," she said.
"He had a hair-trigger temper as a kid. But his dad was so nice," Bankey said.
The AP also reports about Ebel's alleged gang the "211s:"
Ebel is not on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, but the center rates the gang as one of the most vicious white supremacist groups operating in the nation's prisons, comparable to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Founded in 1995 to protect white prisoners from attacks, it operates only in Colorado and has anywhere from between a couple hundred to 1,000 members, senior fellow Mark Potok said Friday.
The gang has grown into a sophisticated criminal enterprise where members are assigned military titles like "general" and extort money from fellow prisoners, regardless of race. Released members are expected to make money to support those still in prison, Potok said. He said members have to attack someone to get in and can only get out by dying.
"It's blood in and blood out," he said.
In 2005, 32 members were indicted for racketeering and the gang's founder, Benjamin Davis, was sentenced to over 100 years in prison.
Clements was shot dead in his home in Monument after he answered a knock at his front door around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. 7News reports that the interaction at the doorway only lasted minutes and there may have been a struggle. Police have said that it appears as if Clements was targeted in the slaying.
Clements is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two daughters, Rachel and Sara. A public memorial service for Clements is set for Monday morning in Colorado Springs.