A high-speed car chase and shootout in Texas on Thursday may be connected to the slaying of the head of Colorado's prison system, who was gunned down at his home and may have been targeted for his work with law enforcement, police said.
Tom Clements, who was appointed two years ago as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was shot on Tuesday night at his home in a secluded wooded area near the town of Monument, 45 miles (70 km) south of Denver.
The Denver Post identified the suspect as a paroled white supremacist prison gang member, Evan Spencer Ebel, citing unnamed state and federal officials. The Colorado sheriff's office leading the investigation would not confirm the identity and said the report could undermine their work.
Colorado authorities have said the slaying of Clements, who was killed as he answered his doorbell, may be linked to his high-profile position. They were investigating possible ties in the case to the Texas car chase, which might itself be tied to the death of a 27-year-old Denver pizza delivery man.
In Texas, authorities said the driver of the car in question shot and wounded a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop, and then sped away down a local highway at speeds of over 100 miles per hour (161 km per hour).
"He was winging his left arm out the window with a pistol, just shooting at every police officer he could see," Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins told a news conference in Wise County, Texas. "He wasn't planning on being taken alive."
The car later smashed into an 18-wheel truck, and the man jumped out and began firing on police before he was shot by officers. Wise County Sheriff David Walker said the driver was brain dead after the shooting.
Pictures of the wrecked car showed that it had Colorado license plates, and authorities in that state said investigators were en route to Texas to follow up.
Colorado authorities have not publicly named a suspect in the death of the 58-year-old Clements. They have said that investigators were mindful of Clements' long corrections career in Missouri and Colorado. He spent 31 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, where he became the No. 2 official.
"We are sensitive to the high-profile position in which Mr. Clements served and the fact there could be people who would target him based on his position," Lieutenant Jeff Kramer, spokesman for Colorado's El Paso County Sheriff's Office, said in a statement.
The Denver Post said Ebel, 28, a member of a white supremacist prison gang, the 211s, had been paroled in the Denver area.
However, the sheriff's office said it was "disappointing" that an anonymous law enforcement official would "reveal a suspect and describe a link which has not been investigated fully."
"Doing so undermines an active investigation and can have a negative impact on any future prosecution," the office said in a statement.
The killing prompted Colorado authorities to strengthen security for state officials, including stepped-up patrols at the governor's mansion, the state capitol and other state facilities, State Patrol spokesman Trooper Josh Lewis said.
Police have said the killing did not appear to be linked to any break-in or robbery attempt, and did not appear to be a random act of violence.
Authorities had said they were looking for a "boxy" two-door sedan seen idling near the house about 15 minutes before the first 911 call. The same car was reported a short time later traveling from the scene with a lone, unidentified occupant, they said.
A spokesman for the Denver police, Officer Carlos Montoya, said that investigators were also looking into possible connections between the Texas suspect and the killing of a Dominos pizza delivery man on March 17.
Police said that the delivery man, Nathan Leon, left on a call to deliver a pizza in Denver that day, but never made it to his destination. His vehicle was found near where he was to deliver the pizza and his body was later found miles away in the town of Golden. He had been shot and killed.
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