Texas Ranger: Evidence ties slain suspect to fatal shooting of Colorado prison chief

Posted Friday, Mar. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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DECATUR -- Shell casings recovered from a 1991 black Cadillac after its driver was killed in a shootout with Texas law officers on Thursday were the same brand and caliber as those used in the fatal shooting of Colorado's top prison official, according to a Texas Ranger's search warrant affidavit released Friday.

The driver, Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a Colorado parolee described as a member of a white supremacist prison gang, is the focus of an investigation into two killings in Colorado.

Ebel died at 5:20 p.m. Thursday at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth after the shootout in Decatur, which followed a high-speed chase from Montague County, where he shot a sheriff's deputy, authorities reported.

Information in the affidavit explains why Ebel immediately became a suspect in the Colorado killings.

The affidavit, signed by Ranger Anthony Bradford, says that the 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun used in the shootout 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.

A Domino's pizza carrier box was in the trunk, with "either a Domino's pizza shirt or jacket in close proximity," he wrote.

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

Why was he in Texas?

About 11 a.m. Thursday, Montague County Deputy James Boyd pulled over a black Cadillac with Colorado plates on U.S. 287 near Bowie, 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 why Ebel was headed south into 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.

"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 FBI will compare the Colorado slaying to the ambush-style killing of Kaufman County prosecutor Mark Hasse on Jan. 31.

Hasse was fatally shot while walking from a parking lot to the county courthouse. Kaufman is about 30 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 department 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 called the 211s.

Colorado officials wouldn't confirm Ebel's membership but placed state prisons on lockdown Friday afternoon.

The 211 gang is one of the most vicious white supremacist groups operating in the nation's prisons, comparable to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups.

Founded in 1995 to protect white prisoners from attacks, it operates only in Colorado and has anywhere from between a couple of hundred to 1,000 members, senior fellow Mark Potok said.

Records show that Ebel was convicted of several crimes in Colorado dating back to 2003.

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.

A suspicious vehicle

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 with Colorado plates 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.

Then Deputy Boyd pulled the car over near Bowie, about 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth. Officials said later that the plates on the front and back of the Cadillac did not match.

On Friday, Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham said part of Boyd's job is as drug interdiction officer. But investigators have not been able to question Boyd yet to find out exactly what preceded the shooting.

The driver fired at Boyd, striking him twice in the chest and grazing his head with another shot.

"The Wise County sheriff said a state trooper also radioed that the deputy had been shot and that the Cadillac was headed south on 287 toward Wise County.

Troopers, sheriffs' deputies and Decatur police joined the pursuit, which reached speeds of 100 mph, officials reported.

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 left 287 and ended up on U.S. 380 where 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 Boyd's actions.

"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. Boyd's father and Cunningham "are best friends," he said.

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

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

The Montague County sheriff's department 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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