DECATUR, Texas (AP) — A former Colorado inmate being investigated in the death of the state prisons chief and a pizza deliveryman died Friday after a harrowing 100-mph car chase and shootout with police in Texas.
His identity still must be officially confirmed by fingerprint analysis, but investigators believe he is Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a Colorado parolee who is a suspect in the slaying of a Denver pizza deliveryman, Nathan Leon, 27, who disappeared from work and whose body was found Sunday evening in Golden, Colo.
Authorities also are trying to determine whether the car Ebel drove was the same seen outside the home of Tom Clements, the prison official, who was shot and killed when he answered the door Tuesday evening.
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.