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Texas suspect's link to Colorado slaying is investigated

March 21, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Jenny Deam
  • A Cadillac with Colorado plates led Texas officers on a high-speed chase until it crashed. A suspect was hospitalized. Officials were investigating possible links to the slaying of Colorado's corrections chief.
A Cadillac with Colorado plates led Texas officers on a high-speed chase… (Joe Duty / Associated Press )

HOUSTON -- A man suspected of trading gunfire with North Texas authorities Thursday and who could be linked to the slaying of Colorado’s prisons chief is likely to die, Texas officials said.

Wise County Sheriff David Walker said the suspect was being kept alive by machines at a Fort Worth hospital and is “basically legally dead.”

“If he survives, he will be charged with attempted capital murder of a police officer,” Walker said at a news briefing in Decatur, about 65 miles northwest of Dallas.

The Denver Post identified him as Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a parolee and a member of a white supremacist prison gang. Ebel has convictions for robbery, menacing and assault.

Colorado investigators are en route to Texas to determine whether the suspect might have been connected to the prison chief’s slaying and possibly others, Walker said. He declined to elaborate on the other killings.

“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,” Walker 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 murder in Denver.

A Domino’s delivery man disappeared around noon on Sunday, and the body of Nathan Leon, 27, was found in the evening about 15 miles away near Golden, Montoya said. He declined to say what the connection might be.

Tom Clements, 58, executive director of Colorado's Department of Corrections, was shot to death as he answered the door of his home Tuesday night in Monument, about 20 miles north of Colorado Springs. Investigators have so far refused to say if the shooting was related to his job. Clements came to Colorado two years ago after working in Missouri’s prison system for 30 years.

The Texas incident began about 11 a.m. Thursday, when a deputy attempted to stop a man driving a car that matched the description of a vehicle spotted outside Clements’ house before he was shot — and the car, a black Cadillac, had Colorado license plates, Walker said.

The man opened fire at Montague County deputy James Boyd, grazing his head and striking him in the chest, Walker said. Boyd was wearing a bulletproof vest and did not appear to be seriously hurt.

The gunman then led authorities on a 100-mph chase for about a half hour that ended when he crashed into an 18-wheeler, Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said.

The gunman fired several times from the car with a handgun as the chief tried to create a roadblock to stop him, Hoskins said.

After the crash, the gunman got out of his car and opened fire on authorities and vehicles around him, hitting 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.

At least one witness whose car was shot during the incident has come forward, Walker said.

“We’re very fortunate that no officers were killed,” Walker said.

The Texas Rangers 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.

The suspect did not have identification on him and investigators were trying to identify him by his fingerprints, Walker said. Investigators had secured the man’s car at the sheriff’s office and planned to start processing it Friday, he said.

“You’ve basically got two separate investigations going on, maybe more,” in Texas and Colorado, Walker said, with “two separate crime scenes.”

“We’ll combine all the trace evidence we found in both places,” he said.

Sgt. Joe Roybal of the El Paso County, Colo., sheriff's office said his office got a call from the FBI in Texas on Thursday alerting them that the shootings “might be connected.” Roybal declined to discuss the possible connection. He said investigators had finished processing the crime scene in Clements’ upscale 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

Jenny Deam in Denver contributed to this report.

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