A white supremacist prison gang member has been identified as a suspect in the killing of Colorado Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements, according to anonymous federal and state officials who spoke with The Denver Post.Clements was shot and killed Tuesday evening while answering the front door of his home in Monument, Colo.
A Department of Corrections employee, also speaking to the Post on condition of anonymity, said officials are investigating the possibility that the killing was a “hit” ordered by the gang. A gang leader in prison, known as a “shot caller,” could order a member to kill someone, the source said.
“What’s not known is whether this was ordered or a crime of opportunity,” the employee told the newspaper.
The suspect in the case is reportedly Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a parolee whose criminal record includes convictions on robbery, menacing, and weapons charges. In 2006, Ebel was charged with assaulting a correctional officer. Officials have apparently identified Ebel as a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211s.
But it appears police will not get a chance to question Ebel about the case. On Thursday, Ebel apparently led law enforcement in Texas on a high-speed chase that ended in a smash-up and a shoot-out with sheriff’s deputies. Wise County Sheriff David Walker told reporters at a news conference that the suspect in the shoot-out was on life support at a Fort Worth, Texas hospital and considered brain dead. Authorities have yet to officially confirm that the driver was in fact Ebel. While the suspect in the shoot-out had been driving a black Cadillac with Colorado plates like the one Colorado authorities were on the lookout for in connection with Clements’ murder, fingerprints were being taken to verify the driver’s identity.
“There’s no identification on him — nothing,” Walker said, according to the Post.
Walker also said that Colorado officials were heading to Texas to investigate connections between the shoot-out suspect and the killings of both Clements and Nathan Collin Leon, a 27-year-old pizza-delivery driver shot on Sunday.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, told TPM on Friday that the center did not have any prior knowledge of Ebel or his reported involvement with the 211s. In a blog post on the center’s Hate Watch blog, Potok wrote that the gang tied to Ebels is called the 211 Crew, also known as the Aryan Alliance, “a particularly vicious regional white supremacist prison gang whose size has been estimated at somewhere between several hundred and a thousand members, all in Colorado.”
“A major, four-year racketeering investigation of the group culminated in 2007 with the arrests of 32 gang members and associates,” Potok wrote. “One of them was Benjamin Davis, who started the gang in 1995, and was ultimately convicted of racketeering, assault and conspiracy and sentenced to 108 years in prison.”
The identification of Ebel as a suspect forced a marked shift in media coverage of Clements’ killing. Earlier this week, various media outlets had raised the possibility that Clements’ killing was tied to his recent decision denying the request of a Saudi man in prison in Colorado to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, Clements wrote a letter informing Homaidan Al-Turki, who was convicted in 2006 of charges including unlawful sexual conduct by use of force, that he had “decided not to support your request for transfer to Saudi Arabia at this time.”