By ANGELA K. BROWN and NICHOLAS RICCARDI
DECATUR, Texas (AP) — A man who may be linked to the slaying of Colorado’s state prison chief led authorities in Texas on a harrowing, 100-mph car chase Thursday that ended after he crashed into a semi and then opened fire before being shot down by his pursuers, authorities said.
The man is still unidentified and is “basically legally deceased” while still hooked up to equipment for organ harvesting at a Fort Worth hospital, Wise County Sheriff David Walker told an afternoon news conference in Decatur.
The possible link to the Tuesday night slaying of Colorado prison director Tom Clements is tentative but intriguing enough to put Colorado investigators on a plane to Texas. The black Cadillac the man drove, with Colorado license plates, matches the description of a car spotted outside Clements’ home just before the Department of Corrections chief was fatally shot while answering his front door.
“We don’t know yet exactly whether this is the guy,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters Thursday afternoon. “There’s some indication. I hope it is.”
A deputy in Montague County, Texas, tried to pull the Cadillac over at about 11 a.m. Thursday on a routine traffic stop, though officials wouldn’t elaborate on the reason.
The driver opened fire on the deputy, wounding him, Walker said. He then fled south before crashing into a semi as he tried to elude his pursuers.
Walker says Colorado investigators are heading to Texas to determine whether the man is connected to Clements’ killing. The wounded deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest and is at a Fort Worth hospital, authorities said. Officials earlier said he wasn’t seriously injured, but now say his condition is unknown.
Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said the man appeared to be a white man in his 30s. The man shot at Hoskins four times as the chief tried to set up a road block to halt him. The man left his car after it crashed and opened fire on the authorities around him, Hoskins said.
“He wasn’t planning on being taken alive,” Hoskins said. In a brief interview, he added that the man had no identification on him.
El Paso County, Colo., sheriff’s investigators have been looking for a dark, late-model car, possibly a Lincoln or a Cadillac, that a neighbor spotted near Clements’ home around the time of the shooting. Lt. Jeff Kramer refused to say what other clues may have been found after Clements’ neighborhood was canvassed by officers.
Clements, 58, was killed as he answered the door to his home Tuesday night in Monument, a town of rolling hills and alpine trees north of Colorado Springs. His death stunned law enforcement colleagues in Colorado and Missouri, where he spent most of his career as a highly respected corrections official.
Police haven’t said if they think his death was linked to his job.
Denver’s KMGH-TV reported Thursday that Clements may have put a bicycle up for sale for $1,200 on Craigslist. Kramer told the station, “I can’t speak to the efforts behind this tip, or the level we are giving it.”
In recent weeks, Clements had requested chemicals to plan for the execution of a convict on Colorado’s death row and denied a Saudi national’s request to serve out the remainder of a sentence in his home country. Officials refused to say whether they were looking at those actions as possible motives.
Clements came to Colorado in 2011 after working three decades in the Missouri prison system. Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman Mandi Steele said Thursday the department was ready to help in the probe if asked.
“Tom regularly commented that corrections is inherently a dangerous business, and that’s all that I’ll say,” said Alison Morgan, a Colorado corrections spokeswoman who worked closely with Clements.
Officials in positions like Clements’ get a deluge of threats, according to people who monitor their safety. But it can be hard sorting out which ones could lead to violence. A U.S. Department of Justice study found that federal prosecutors and judges received 5,250 threats between 2003 and 2008, but there were only three attacks during that time period.
The last public official killed in Colorado in the past 10 years was Sean May, a prosecutor in suburban Denver. An assailant killed May as he arrived home from work. Investigators examined May’s court cases, but the case remains unsolved.