Texas Rangers: Shell casings in Cadillac matched those in fatal shooting of Colorado prison executive

Posted Friday, Mar. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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DECATUR - Shell casings recovered from a 1991 Cadillac driven by a Colorado man who died after a shootout with Texas law enforcement were the same brand and caliber as those used in the fatal shooting of Colorado's top prison official, according to a search warrant affidavit released Friday.

Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a parolee described as a member of a white supremacist prison gang, is at the center of an investigation into two killings in Colorado. He died at 5:20 p.m. Thursday at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Information in the affidavit explains why authorities immediately began looking at him as suspect in the Colorado cases after Thursday's gun battle in Montague and Wise counties, northwest of Fort Worth.

Texas Ranger Anthony Bradford in the affidavit that the 9mm Smith and Wesson handgun used in the shootout with deputies was the same caliber as the one used in the shooting of Tom Clements, executive director of Colorado Department of Corrections. Clements was shot in the chest Tuesday night when he answered the front door at his home in Monument, Colo.

"Hornaday shell casings were recovered at the scene, which are the same brand and caliber used" in Wise County, Bradford wrote in the affidavit.

Bradford also said a Domino's pizza carrier box was in the trunk, with "either a Domino's pizza shirt or jacket in close proximity."

Domino's deliveryman Nathan Collin Leon, 27, disappeared Sunday in Denver. His body was later found with several gunshot wounds.

Ebel apparently drove without incident until Thursday morning, when Montague County Deputy James Boyd pulled him over as part of a drug interdiction, officials said.

As Boyd approached the black Cadillac, he was shot three times but was able to use his radio to give dispatchers a vehicle description and the direction the driver was headed. He is expected to survive.

Authorities said Friday they still have no idea what led Ebel to head to Texas.

"We want to know why he was in Texas," Wise County Sheriff David Walker said after a noon news conference in Decatur. "We want to know what he was doing here."

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins, who was involved in the shootout, said he believes there was no clear-cut reason that led Ebel to Texas.

"I'm inclined to think he was probably just passing through," Hoskins said.

Ebel has not been connected to any Texas cases, but Kaufman County authorities said Friday that the Dallas and Denver offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation will compare the Colorado slaying to the ambush-style killing of Kaufman Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse.

Hasse was fatally shot while walking from a parking to the courthouse Jan. 31. Kaufman is about 33 miles southeast of Dallas.

"This is part of routine investigative work when two crimes occur under somewhat similar circumstances," Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said in a statement. "If any link is found, or a possible link is disproven, that information will be released at the appropriate time."

At Friday's news conference, John San Agustin, an inspector with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office in Colorado, declined to speculate about Ebel's connection to the two murders in Colorado or his membership in any prison gangs or white supremacist groups. The Denver Post, citing sources, said Ebel was a member of a white-supremacist prison group.

San Agustin said he was "extremely confident" that officers have good leads in the case and that the physical evidence will answer the question of whether Ebel played a role in the Colorado killings.

Colorado officials said authorities remain on "heightened alert" for any additional threats to Colorado prison officials.

The events in Texas began Thursday on U.S. 287, which runs from Montana to the Texas coast.

Wichita County Sheriff David Duke told the Wichita Falls Times Record News that 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.

At about 11 a.m., Deputy Boyd pulled over a black Cadillac with Colorado license plates near Bowie, about 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Officials said the plates on the front and back of the Cadillac did not match.

Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham said the Cadillac was pulled over as part of Deputy Boyd's job as a drug interdiction officer. But Cunningham said they have not been able to question Boyd about the incident yet.

The driver opened fire on Boyd, striking him twice in the chest and grazing his head with another shot.

"His actions were crucial," the sheriff said. "He did his job and he did it well. And his vest saved his life."

Boyd was able to radio dispatchers a description and direction the Cadillac was headed after he was shot.

The Wise County Sheriff's Department said a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper also radioed that the deputy had been shot and that the Cadillac was headed south on 287 toward Wise County.

Troopers, sheriff's deputies and Decatur police joined the pursuit, which reached speeds of 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, barely missing his head.

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.

Both Texas and Colorado officials praised the actions of Boyd.

"If it wasn't for him, would anybody have stopped him?" San Agustin said.

Cunningham said the three-year veteran will likely be in the hospital for several days.

"I've known him since he was kid," Cunningham said. "Me and his dad are best friends."

At one point during the news conference, Cunningham broke down when asked about the deputy.

Boyd's Facebook friends filled profile with encouraging comments and prayers Friday.

"My prayers are with officer James Boyd and his family," one person wrote. "I truly appreciate all of our law enforcement and all they do to keep our streets safe."

Another friend left the message "James, your Grandpa had your back. Love you very much and prayers for a speedy recovery. xoxo"

The Montague County Sheriff's Office said Friday that a bank account has set up Legend Bank in Nocona on behalf of Boyd and his family.

Staff Writer Alex Branch contributed to this report.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7411

Twitter: @fwhanna

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