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Texas shootout may be linked to Colorado slaying, police say

A car similar to one seen outside a slain prison director's home is pursued by Texas authorities, and the driver is critically wounded in an exchange of gunfire.

March 21, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Jenny Deam, Los Angeles Times
  • A black Cadillac with Colorado plates, matching a car at the scene of the Colorado prisons director's shooting, was spotted Thursday in Texas. Police said the driver opened fire, led officers on a chase and crashed the car. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
A black Cadillac with Colorado plates, matching a car at the scene of the… (Joe Duty / Wise County Messenger )

HOUSTON — Authorities were investigating whether a man involved in a high-speed chase and shootout in north Texas on Thursday was linked to the killing of Colorado's prisons chief.

The man was driving a black Cadillac with Colorado plates — a vehicle similar to one seen outside the home of Tom Clements, executive director of Colorado's Department of Corrections, before Clements was shot to death Tuesday night.

Authorities did not release the suspected gunman's identity, but the Denver Post and the Associated Press reported that he was Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a parolee and a member of a white supremacist prison gang. Ebel's convictions include robbery, menacing and assault, according to Colorado records.

The shootout left the suspect critically wounded and "basically legally dead," Wise County Sheriff David Walker told reporters at a news briefing in Decatur, about 65 miles northwest of Dallas. "If he survives, he will be charged with attempted capital murder of a police officer."

Colorado investigators were en route to Texas to determine whether he was connected to the killing of Clements and possibly others, Walker said. "There's been a lot of rumors running around, people wanting to know if this is connected to the shooting of the Colorado prison director," he said. "We don't know if it is or not."

Carlos Montoya, a spokesman for the Denver Police Department, confirmed that Colorado authorities were investigating a link between the Texas suspect and an unsolved killing in Denver.

Nathan Leon, a 27-year-old Domino's delivery man, disappeared about noon Sunday, and his body was found six hours later about 15 miles away near Golden, Colo., Montoya said. He declined to say what the connection with the Texas suspect might be.

Clements, 58, was shot to death when he answered the door of his home in Monument, about 20 miles north of Colorado Springs. He had spent 32 years in corrections, 30 of them in Missouri, before coming to Colorado two years ago.

The Texas incident began about 11 a.m. Thursday, when a deputy spotted the black Cadillac with Colorado plates, Walker said.

The driver opened fire at Montague County Deputy James Boyd, grazing his head and striking him in the chest, Walker said. Boyd, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was hospitalized. His condition was not released.

The driver led authorities on a 100-mph chase for about half an hour, Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said. The man, who appeared to be white and in his 30s, fired several times from the car with a handgun as police tried to create a roadblock to stop him, Hoskins said.

When the Cadillac slammed into an 18-wheeler, the driver got out and opened fire on authorities, shooting at least two vehicles, Hoskins and Walker said.

"He wanted to take a life," Hoskins said. The driver of the 18-wheeler, Hoskins and about 20 other officials at the scene were unharmed.

"We're very fortunate that no officers were killed," Walker said.

The suspected gunman was not carrying identification, he said; authorities were trying to identify him by his fingerprints.

“We do not have positive ID yet on the suspect but hope to have that first thing in the morning,” a spokeswoman for the Wise County Sheriff’s office, Susan Gomez, said by email late Thursday.

A spokeswoman for John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where Walker said the suspect was taken, declined to release his condition, citing hospital policy.

The Texas Rangers and the Wise County sheriff were leading the investigation, with assistance from numerous local agencies and the FBI, Walker said. Spokespersons for the Rangers and the FBI's Dallas office referred questions to local law enforcement.

Sgt. Joe Roybal of the El Paso County, Colo., sheriff's office said the FBI in Texas called his office with an alert that the Texas incident "might be connected" to the Colorado slaying. He said investigators had finished processing the crime scene in Clements' neighborhood and were following up on leads, trying to find a woman who may have been walking in the area at the time of the shooting.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Special correspondent Jenny Deam reported from Denver.

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