Evan Spencer Ebel, the dead parolee investigators are looking into as the possible murderer of Colorado Department of Corrections head Tom Clements, was a member of a white supremacist prison gang that may have given orders to kill Clements.
Ebel, 28, later died from injuries suffered Thursday during a high-speed chase in Texas, just days after Clements, 58, was shot and killed Tuesday night answering the doorbell at his home in Monument, the Denver Post reported.
Ebel was driving a black Cadillac with Colorado license plates that matched the description of a vehicle seen near Clements’ home at the time.
Investigators from Colorado have rushed to Texas to go through evidence that may link Ebel to Clements’ murder, the Associated Press reported.
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based group that monitors extremist groups, told IBTimes Ebel was a member of the Colorado-based 211 prison crew, also known as the Aryan Alliance.
The white supremacist gang was founded in 1995 by Benjamin Davis at the Denver County Jail.
“The 211 Crew morphed very quickly into a very vicious criminal gang,” Potok said, with a “blood in blood out” policy of membership. In other words, gang members can only get out of the 211 Crew by dying, and need to inflict violence to join the group.
The gang is believed to have anywhere from a couple hundred to 1,000 members and uses Nazi and White Power symbols.
Investigators are looking into whether the gang delivered orders to kill Clements, who oversaw the Colorado state prison and parole system.
“We have received information that [the suspect] is a parolee and identified as a gang member in the prison system," El Paso County Undersheriff, Paula Presley, told CNN.
Potok said if a connection is made between the 211 Crew and Clements’ death, he would be shocked at the “unbelievable brazenness of the attack.”
“I think we’re looking at a war here,” he said. “I think law enforcement will come down on them like a ton of bricks.”
Ebel became involved in a high-speed chase with Texas authorities when they tried to pull him over Thursday night in Montague.
The 28-year-old shot a deputy twice in the chest before speeding away, resulting in a chase that ended about 30 miles away, in Decatur. The deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest and his injuries were unknown, AP reported.
"I would say he was running about 100 mph, and he had his left arm out the window and he was just shooting," Decatur Police Chief, Rex Hoskins, told CNN.
Officers eventually shot Ebel, who died of his injuries hours after the encounter with Texas authorities.
"He wasn't planning on being taken alive," Hoskins told the news wire service.
Ebel has a history of criminal activity. He was convicted of several crimes in 2003 and was found guilty of assaulting a prison guard in 2008.
It’s unclear exactly when Ebel was paroled. A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections said she couldn't give out any information on parolees, citing the investigation into Clements’ death.
Scott Robinson, Ebel’s lawyer in 2003 and 2004, told AP that his client was convicted of robberies. He was sentenced to three years in prison in one case and eight years in another.
"I thought he was a young man who was redeemable, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the case," Robinson said.
Robbery is one way for prospective 211 members to gain entry into the gang, according to prisonoffenders.com.
“The gang requires that all prospects rob and extort other inmates before becoming a member,” the website states. “The gang also operates in cities and towns throughout Colorado and is involved in drug and weapons trafficking. The money made through these serious crimes is then funneled back to incarcerated leaders.”
A former neighbor of Ebel’s, who lived near him in a Denver suburb when he was a teenager, said he had a temper. She remembered Ebel once jumping off the roof of his house.
"He was a handful. I'd see him do some pretty crazy things," Vicky Bankey said. "He had a hair-trigger temper as a kid. But his dad was so nice."
Ebel is also suspected of murdering a pizza delivery driver in Denver on Sunday.