Texas and Colorado authorities are investigating whether a Colorado parolee (Evan Spencer Ebel) Texas Police gunned down after a wild 100 mph chase following the shooting of a local Montague County deputy during a traffic stop is the same one who days earlier shot and killed a Colorado Prison Superintendent (warden Tom Clements) when the official answered his door to an assailant dressed as a Domino Pizza delivery man. The deputy (James Boyd) was shot 3 times, but wearing a bullet proof vest, and taken to an area hospital where he is expected to recover.
Investigators believe the crime spree, which included the murder of a pizza delivery employee (Nathan Leon) may be related to a white supremacists gang still in prison. (The “211’s,” aka: the Brotherhood of Aryan Alliance) Authorities from Colorado are in Texas doing forensics tests to try to connect the crimes.
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.
Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office in Santa Clara County, Calif., 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 Strassmann, appears to be revenge.
A pizza delivery uniform was retrieved from the dead man’s vehicle which had collided with a semi-truck moments before he was cut down in a hail of bullets as police returned his fire. The 28 year old suspect’s brain dead body is on life support at an area hospital. News sources report plans to harvest the dead man’s organs.
It remained unclear whether Clements was targeted when he was shot Tuesday and why.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, who hired Clements, said in a statement Friday that he is a longtime friend of the suspect’s father, attorney Jack Ebel, who testified two years ago before state lawmakers that solitary confinement was destroying his son’s psyche. Hickenlooper confirmed he mentioned the case to Clements as an example of why the prison system needed reform before the job was offered, but the governor said he did not mention Evan Ebel by name.
Correctional professionals interviewed in the aftermath of the Colorado shooting say the growing influence of prison gangs, their ability to communicate with affiliates on the outside through smuggled cellphones and the ease with which people can be found and tracked online have made the job even more dangerous for them and their families.
Clements is at least the second head of a state prison system to be killed. The top administrator of the Oregon Department of Corrections, Michael Francke, was stabbed to death outside his office in 1989 in what prosecutors described as a bungled car burglary. A former state prison inmate was found guilty of aggravated murder in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison.
Guards and wardens also have been targeted.
In South Carolina two years ago, Capt. Robert Johnson, a 15-year veteran of the same prison that just got a new warden, was shot six times in his home. He survived but required eight surgeries and months of rehabilitation.
Corrections officials in California, New York and other states would not reveal what precautions they suggest for prison personnel when off-duty, preferring to keep that information confidential.
“However, the tragedy in Colorado underscores the dangers faced by our agents in the field and our employees in our institutions,” Deborah Hoffman, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in an email. Prison employees “understand these dangers and take every precaution to keep themselves, their colleagues, and their families safe.”
Among them is Joe Baumann, a 28-year veteran California correctional officer.
He said he rarely leaves his home packing fewer than two weapons out of fear he’ll run into one of the ex-convicts he oversaw at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, 50 miles east of Los Angeles. It’s one of the lessons he’s picked up over the years, a precaution driven home by this week’s slaying in Colorado.
“Everybody’s always on their Ps and Qs, anyway — making sure you’re wearing a jacket over your uniform, don’t put your uniform shirt on until you’re in the (prison) parking lot, taking a different route to and from work,” he said.
But he added, “With a situation like you have in Colorado, it’s kind of hard to protect yourself from someone who shows up at your front door.”
Some states have tried to address the concern with provisions exempting various government employees from restrictions on conceal-and-carry weapon privileges. The exemptions allow certain people to carry weapons on campuses or in churches and government buildings, where other permit holders still must give up their weapons.
In Georgia, the list includes “wardens, superintendents and keepers of correctional institutions.” Georgia lawmakers this year are considering a bill that would add retired judges to the list.
By comparison, Oregon prohibits weapons on prison property, even for guards. The prison guard union is pushing for legislation allowing its officers to leave a gun in their locked vehicle, noting the potential danger they face on their way to and from work.
That danger is all too real for guards and wardens in some states.
Illinois correctional officers still recall the fatal shooting in 1985 of an assistant state prison warden who was shot to death outside a Chicago tavern. A former gang member was arrested, but his conviction was later overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Prosecutors suggested the suspect shot the warden, Virdeen Willis Jr,. in retaliation for a scuffle with a gang leader inside Pontiac Correctional Center.
Ralph Portwood, union president for the maximum-security Stateville Correctional Center outside of Chicago, said the only protection guards have beyond the prison walls is their own wits.
A prison guard for nearly 19 years, he said staff have been told that certain gangs have tried to direct people on the street to “get you” — including suggestions that they watch for guards refueling their vehicles at gas stations near the prison.
“It happens more than people think with ex-cons walking up to us on the street,” he said. “They recognize us before we recognize them.”
An investigation into the killing of the Colorado prisons superintendent is continuing. The Jan. 31 assassination of a Texas prosecutor, Mark Hasse, 57, in a parking lot near the Kaufman County courthouse where he worked, is among the slayings authorities are looking at. “The Dallas and Denver offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are comparing the homicides of Mark Hasse and Tom Clements to determine if there is any evidence linking the two crimes,” said Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh in a written statement provided to the Dallas Morning News.
Some weeks ago, an unknown assailant threw a cup of water into the face of local Thurston County District Court judge Buckley when his Honor was confronted at home after opening the front door. Lab results of what was mixed with the liquid have not been released and police have not been able to identify the perpetrator or arrest him. No apparent injury to Buckley has been reported.
A review of ballistic evidence determined that casings from the same gun were present at Ebel’s shootout with authorities in Texas and at the scene of Clements’ murder in Colorado. The Associated Press reports that bomb-making materials were found in Ebel’s black Cadillac after the shootout, as well as handwritten directions, duct tape and zip ties, among other items.
Meanwhile, Fox 31 Denver reports that unidentified sources say the vehicle also contained what the station calls a possible “hit list” of attorneys and law enforcement officers. Another Associated Press article reports, in general, those who work at prisons worry about potential violence at home and when out in the community. Family members also can be targets, the article points out.
Reuters news service reports Ebel spent the bulk of his 8-year Colorado prison term in solitary confinement for various infractions including assaulting/threatening to kill jailers and fighting with other inmates. Clements, ironically, was known for seeking to reduce the amount of time that troubled inmates spent in solitary before he was shot to death last week when he answered the doorbell at his home.
Ebel was initially sentenced to three years in prison on robbery, menacing and other charges, but quickly earned more time for his violent and disruptive behavior. Seven months into his incarceration, Ebel told a female corrections officer that he would “kill her if he ever saw her on the streets and that he would make her beg for her life,” one disciplinary entry noted, which resulted in his placement in solitary confinement.
The Colorado-Texas incident(s) is not dissimilar to the antagonism felt by local law enforcement authorities in Mason County, Washington. Some years ago, shortly after Bruce Finlay, a local criminal defense attorney, had completed a stint as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the County in tandem with his wife, Amber Finlay (now a Superior Court judge in the County, but a foreign national at the time she served as deputy prosecuting attorney including a notable local murder case), the counselor was driving his small automobile late one night on the back roads of Lewis County.
The new chapter in Bruce’s career as a defense attorney took him to court venues spread throughout western Washington. Suddenly, out of the black night, a large 4×4 pickup truck with a heavy wooden plank type bumper crashed into the back of his car. Mr. Finlay instantly slammed on his brakes…but without any effect as he heard the trucks powerful motor accelerating and pushing his lightweight automobile, wheels locked, effortlessly down the midnight highway. Finlay recalls screaming at that moment. As suddenly, the truck’s driver let off the accelerator, passed Bruce’s car, and disappeared into the night. The car was totaled. Mr. Finlay was shaken. The perpetrator was never identified or caught. Whether the actor recognized Bruce or his vehicle isn’t known. Still, it serves as an example of how the state’s most powerful are but human and mortal. Even they must sleep.
Texas district attorney, wife found dead:
Investigators are looking into the deaths of a North Texas district attorney and his wife, just two months after an assistant district attorney who worked in the same office was gunned down outside the county courthouse.
Police discovered the bodies of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia McLelland, on Saturday at their home in unincorporated Kaufman County, about 35 miles southeast of Dallas, said Lt. Justin Lewis, a spokesman with the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the inquiry.
Lewis would not say if the couple was murdered or how they died.
“We’re in the very preliminary stages in the investigation,” he said. “Right now it’s a death investigation.”
The deaths come as federal and local agents are still searching for suspects in the brazen shooting death of Mark Hasse,an assistant district attorney under McLelland, who was shot and killed the morning of Jan. 31 as he exited his car outside the main Kaufman County courthouse. Lewis would not say if the two incidents were connected.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News posted Feb. 19, McLelland said federal and local agents were following all leads in the Hasse case.
“I don’t think you can rule out anybody,” he said. “They’re going to go turn over all the rocks that they can.
“It’s been incredibly hard for folks because it was so sudden, so completely unexpected and so out of left field,” McLelland told the news organization. But, he said he felt hopeful Hasse’s killer or killers would be found.
“He’ll brag about it to somebody and that’ll be his downfall,” McLelland said. “I’m just hoping that’s sooner rather than later.” Kaufman police officials said recently the FBI was checking to see if Hasse’s killing was connected to the Mar. 19 killing of Colorado Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements, who was gunned down after answering his doorbell at his home.
Hasse, 57, was chief of the organized crime unit when he was an assistant prosecutor in Dallas County in the 1980s, and he handled similar cases in Kaufman County.
McLelland, 63, had served 23 years as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army before attending law school and launching his legal career, according to his office’s website. He had practiced law for 18 years as a criminal defense attorney, mental health judge and special prosecutor for Family and Protective Services, then served as criminal district attorney.
“These are truly direct attacks on the core of our civil society and the rule of law,” Governor Perry said. “Texas is a law-and-order state, and we will track down and punish those who have committed this crime.”
“Right now, there is no leading theory, and that is why we are enlisting the public’s help,” said a law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the investigation. “That kind of money [$200,000 reward] could make someone turn on a loved one.”
“When the people are afraid of the government…that’s tyranny! When the government is afraid of the people…that’s liberty!” -Ben Franklin-