Suspect in slaying of Colorado prison chief dead after Wise County shootout

Posted Friday, Mar. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The man who shot a Montague County deputy before leading Texas officers on a high-speed chase into Wise County was a suspect in the shooting death of Colorado's prison chief, officials said Friday.

Wise County officials identified the gunman as 28-year-old Evan Spencer Ebel, who has been identified by the Denver Post as a member of a white supremacist prison gang.

Ebel died at 5:20 p.m. Thursday at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth after a shootout with deputies.

The Tarrant County medical examiner's office confirmed through fingerprints that the gunman was Ebel. He died from a single gunshot wound to the forehead, the medical examiner said.

"We have no idea why he was in Texas," Wise County Sheriff David Walker said at a Friday news conference, which officers from the El Paso County (Colo.) sheriff's office and Colorado Bureau of Investigation also attended.

After the traffic stop, which Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham described as "a drug interdiction," Ebel led state troopers and deputies from two counties on a wild southbound chase on U.S. 287 in the car, shooting at pursuing officers, Walker said.

Before exiting the highway, he hit a sheriff's patrol car and the Decatur police chief's car. At an intersection on U.S. 380, he crashed into a rock-hauler.

As he got out of his car, he shot at pursuers, who fired back. The man was shot in the head, authorities said.

Montague County sheriff's Deputy James Boyd was in serious condition at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, a hospital spokeswoman said. Cunningham grew emotional during the news conference when asked about Boyd.

Wichita County Sheriff David Duke told the Wichita Falls Times Record News that earlier Thursday, one of his deputies followed the Cadillac through Wichita Falls because the vehicle is a type often used in narcotics trafficking.

He said the driver didn't violate any traffic laws, so the deputy never stopped him, the newspaper reported.

Was killing ordered?

Colorado corrections officials are investigating whether the execution-style shooting of the state's prison chief, Tom Clements, on Tuesday was ordered by the 211 gang, a source told the Post on Thursday.

Clements was shot about 8:45 p.m. as he answered the door at his home in Monument, Colo., which is in El Paso County.

"What's not known is whether this was ordered or a crime of opportunity," said a Department of Corrections employee who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity.

Shortly after Clements' slaying, Colorado placed all 20 of its prisons on modified lockdown.

"We don't know yet exactly whether [the man shot in Wise County] is the guy," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters Thursday afternoon. "There's some indication. I hope it is."

Colorado law enforcement officials were investigating whether Ebel is connected to the slaying of 27-year-old pizza delivery driver Nathan Collin Leon in Denver on Sunday, the Post reported.

On their Twitter feed, Denver police stated that "there is a strong connection with the Texas case."

Gunfight ensued

About 11 a.m. on U.S. 287, which runs from Montana to the Texas coast, Deputy Boyd pulled over a black Cadillac with Colorado license plates near Bowie.

Bowie is about 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

"This was a routine traffic stop," Montague County District Attorney Paige Williams said.

Colorado authorities said a similar vehicle was seen near where Clements was shot.

The driver opened fire on Boyd, striking him twice in the chest and once in the head, Williams said.

A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper radioed that the deputy had been shot and that the Cadillac was headed south on 287 toward Wise County, Walker said in a news release late Thursday.

Troopers, sheriff's deputies and Decatur police joined the pursuit, which sometimes reached 100 mph.

The Cadillac driver fired numerous shots at the pursuing officers. Bullets struck the windshield of a Wise County patrol lieutenant's car, Walker said.

Inside Decatur, the Cadillac driver took the Farm Road 51 exit and turned west on Business 380.

When he pulled out onto U.S. 380, his car was struck by a rock hauler, Walker said.

"He exited the vehicle and engaged our deputies in a gunfight, at which time we returned fire," Walker said.

"The suspect was shot, and our deputies were not."

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said the man appeared to be white and in his 30s. He shot at Hoskins four times as the chief tried to block the road.

"He wasn't planning on being taken alive," Hoskins said.

The man was first taken to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur but was later flown by air ambulance to JPS in Fort Worth.

Deputy Boyd "has a very good reputation," Williams said.

"He was extremely thorough," she said. "He does his job very well."

Boyd had messages on his Facebook page telling him that friends are praying for him.

Texas Rangers will lead the Texas end of the investigation, Walker said.

Staff writer Bill Miller contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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