MONUMENT, Colo. — Colorado’s top state prison official was shot and killed when he answered the front door of his house, and police are searching for the gunman and trying to figure out if the attack had anything to do with his position.
Authorities are also looking for a dark-colored “boxy” car seen near the house of Tom Clements, 58, when he was shot around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Monument, north of Colorado Springs. The vehicle’s engine was running and a witness reported seeing one person driving away in the car.
Lt. Jeff Kramer, of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators have not ruled anything out, but the shooting could have been related to Clements’ job as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
“As the director of the Department of Corrections or any similar type position, it could in fact open someone up to be a target of a crime such as this. Although we remain sensitive to that, we also want to make sure that we remain open-minded to other possibilities as well,” Kramer said.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Clements to the post in 2011 after he served for more than three decades in the Missouri Department of Corrections. He replaced Ari Zavaras, a former Denver police chief who led the department under two governors. The department operates 20 adult prisons and a juvenile detainment system.
Hickenlooper was red-eyed and somber and spoke haltingly Wednesday morning at a news conference in which he said he doesn’t think the killing was part of any larger attack against his cabinet, members of which stood behind him, several of them crying. Others dabbed their eyes.
“Corrections is a very different job. You make difficult decisions every time that affect different people,” Hickenlooper said, calling Clements dedicated, funny, caring and an expert on the latest and best methods in his field who chose the Colorado job over retirement.
“Tom Clements dedicated his life to being a public servant, to making our state a better place and he is going to be deeply, deeply missed.”
Hickenlooper planned to go to Monument to meet with Clements’ family after signing gun-control bills.
A family member called 911 to report the shooting. Search dogs were called in to comb through a wooded area around Clements’ home, and authorities were going house to house trying to find out what neighbors heard and saw.
Clements lived in a wooded neighborhood of large, two-story houses on expansive 2-acre lots dotted with evergreen trees in an area known as the Black Forest. Long driveways connect the homes to narrow, winding roads that thread the hills. Clements’ home was out of view, behind a barricaded of crime-scene tape in the road.
It would have been simple to find where Clements lived. It took two clicks to get his correct street address through a publicly available internet locator service Wednesday morning. The listing also included his previous home address in Missouri.
After Clements was appointed, Hickenlooper praised Clements for his approach to incarceration, saying he relied on proven methods to improve prison safety inside and programs that have been shown to improve successful outcomes after offenders are released from prison.
A quick Google search came up with this address, demonstrating how easily the culprit could have found where Mr. Clements lived. It will be interesting to see what the legal system makes of this. I’ve always wondered if the authorities might request data on who may have searched for certain things on the internet following a crime with no other leads.