Clues sought in shooting death of Colorado prisons chief

Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements was shot and killed as he answered the door at his home Tuesday evening. Police agencies and the FBI are searching for physical evidence and any motive.

Ed Andrieski/AP
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper pauses at a news conference at the Capitol in Denver on Wednesday where he talks about the shooting death of Tom Clements the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections.
Colorado Department of Corrections/REUTERS
Tom Clements, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Clements was killed in his home Tuesday evening.

Law enforcement authorities in Colorado, including the FBI, are searching for physical evidence and any motive connected to the shooting death Tuesday night of Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements.

Mr. Clements was shot and killed at about 8:30 p.m. local time when he answered the doorbell at his home in a wooded area of Monument, Colo. According to the family member who called 911, the lone shooter left immediately. Neighbors report seeing a “boxy” dark-colored 1990s sedan, which had been parked with the motor running, leave the area at about that time.

Gov. John Hickenlooper fought back tears as he addressed questions during a news conference on Wednesday, The Denver Post reports.

In a letter to Colorado Department of Corrections employees, Governor Hickenlooper wrote: “I can hardly believe it, let alone write words to describe it…. He was unfailingly kind and thoughtful, and sought the ‘good’ in any situation. As you all know, in corrections that is not easy…. I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can't imagine our team without him.”

"We have no known suspect at this time," El Paso County Sheriff's office spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said in a statement, adding that robbery does not appear to be a motive.

“We are sensitive to the high-profile position in which Mr. Clements served and the fact there could be people who would target him based on his position,” Lieutenant Kramer said. “However, we remain open-minded to all investigative possibilities and continue to work all available clues and sources of information.”
"There is no evidence of a home invasion," Kramer said. "Whether he was specifically targeted or this was random, we don't know.”

State officials, however, took the precaution of increasing security for top Colorado government officials and at the governor's mansion, USA Today reports.

Coincidentally, Colorado’s Democratic governor on Wednesday signed new gun laws limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and expanding background checks to include all gun sales.

During the last month, Colorado has been viewed as a test for how far states are willing to go on new restrictions after the horror of shootings at a Connecticut elementary school and in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver. There, on July 20, a gunman dressed in body armor and carrying an arsenal of firearms killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others during a midnight showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

While Clements generally kept a low profile, his killing comes a week after he denied a Saudi national prisoner's request to be sent to his home country to serve out his sentence, CBS News and other news sources report.

Homaidan al-Turki was convicted of sexually assaulting a housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave. Clements said state law requires sex offenders to undergo treatment while in prison and that Mr. al-Turki had declined to participate, CBS reports.

Al-Turki insisted the case was politically motivated. He owned a company that some years ago sold CDs of sermons recorded by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born imam killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

Al-Turki's conviction angered Saudi officials and prompted the US State Department to send Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan, and al-Turki's family.

Mr. Clements was known as a prison reformer who emphasized preparing inmates to succeed upon reentering society, The Washington Times reports. He spent 31 years as the second-in-command of the Missouri corrections system before being named executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2011.

Clements supervised a staff of 6,022 employees at 20 public prisons. There were 20,379 Colorado inmates as of the end of 2012.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.