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Man possibly tied to Colorado state prisons chief's killing has died

10:55 AM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
  • Emergency personnel are on the scene of a crash and shootout with police involving the driver of a black Cadillac with Colorado plates in Decatur, Texas, on Thursday. Colorado authorities are investigating whether the driver, identified as Evan Ebel, is linked to the shooting death of the Tom Clements, director of the Colorado Dept. of Corrections. (Photo: Jimmy Alford, Wise County Messenger, AP)
  • Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements was shot to death around 8:30 p.m. March 19, 2013, when he answered his front door in Monument, north of Colorado Springs. (Colorado Department of Corrections/AP Photo)
  • Authorities identified the driver of the black Cadillac involved in a chase and shootout Thursday in Texas as 28-year-old Evan Spencer Ebel, a Colorado parolee who belonged to a white supremacist prison gang.(Photo: Colorado Department of Corrections)
    
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DECATUR, Texas - A young gunman possibly linked to the slaying of Colorado's state prisons chief has died of gunshot wounds received after a harrowing 100-mph car chase and shootout with Texas police.

Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, died in a Fort Worth hospital from gunshot wounds to the head, official told the AP.

Investigators from three Colorado police agencies rushed to Texas to determine if Ebel, a former Colorado prison inmate, was involved in the shooting death of Tom Clements, the Colorado official killed when he answered the from door of his home in Monument,Colo., on Tuesdays.

Ebel drove a black Cadillac with Colorado license plates, which matched the description of a car spotted outside Clements' home at the time of the shooting.

Colorado investigators also wanted to see if he was linked to a second killing, the shooting death Sunday of Nathan Leon, a Denver pizza delivery man. Police in Colorado would only say the connection to the Leon case is strong but would not elaborate or say if they believe Ebel killed Clements and Leon.

The Denver Post first reported Ebel's name, and that he was in a white supremacist prison gang called the 211s. A federal law enforcement official confirmed his identity and gang affiliation to The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

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.

The killing of Clements, 58, shocked his quiet neighborhood in Monument, a town of rolling hills north of Colorado Springs, for its brutality: He answered the door of his home Tuesday evening and was gunned down. Authorities wouldn't say if they thought the attack was related to his job, and all Clements' recent public activities and cases were scrutinized.

The Texas car chase started when a sheriff's deputy in Montague County, James Boyd, tried to pull over the Cadillac around 11 a.m. Thursday, authorities there said. They wouldn't say exactly why he was stopped, but called it routine.

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.

After the crash, he got out of the vehicle, shooting at deputies and troopers who had joined the chase. He shot at Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins four times as the chief tried to set up a roadblock.

"He wasn't planning on being taken alive," Hoskins said.

Boyd, the deputy who was shot, was wearing a bulletproof vest and was at a Fort Worth hospital, authorities said. Officials had said he wasn't seriously injured but later said his condition was unknown.

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 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.

Ebel's father didn't return an after-hours phone message left at his business.

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.

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.

Contributing: Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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