AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A white supremacist ex-convict who died in a roadside gun battle with Texas police was being investigated for possible links to the murders of a Colorado corrections chief and a pizza delivery man, law enforcement officials said on Friday.
Police said that Evan Spencer Ebel, a 28-year-old parolee from Denver killed by police on Thursday after a high-speed car chase through Decatur, Texas, was being investigated in connection with the death of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Clements, 58, was shot to death on Tuesday night when he answered the door at his home in secluded woods near the town of Monument, 45 miles south of Denver.
Denver police have named Ebel as a suspect in the killing of pizza delivery man Nathan Leon in Denver two days earlier.
Ebel was a member of a white supremacist prison gang, the 211 Crew, had served time in Colorado prisons and had been paroled in the Denver area, a law enforcement official said.
The Hornady 9 mm bullets Ebel fired at Texas police on Thursday were the same brand as those used in the slaying of Clements, Denver television station KCNC-TV reported on Friday, citing a search warrant affidavit filed in Texas for police to search Ebel’s Cadillac car.
In the car’s trunk, there was a pizza deliverer’s shirt or jacket, the station reported, citing court documents.
Authorities were also looking for ties between the murder of Clements and the January slaying of Mark Hasse, a prosecutor in the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office. Kaufman County is east of Dallas.
The January 31 murder of Hasse occurred the same day the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office was among the agencies involved in a racketeering case against the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist group.
“The Dallas and Denver offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are comparing the homicides of Mark Hasse and Tom Clements to determine if there is any evidence linking the two crimes,” Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said in a written statement.
In Texas on Thursday, Ebel shot and wounded a Montague County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop and fled. He led police on a car chase that ended only after his car, a Cadillac with Colorado plates, collided with an 18-wheeler truck.
Ebel died Thursday at a Fort Worth hospital of a single gunshot wound to the forehead, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
“I do know that he has a lengthy criminal history,” said Wise County (Texas) Sheriff David Walker, whose deputies were involved in the car chase.
El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Spokesman Lieutenant Jeff Kramer said investigators looking into the death of Clements went to Decatur, Texas, to examine Ebel’s Cadillac.
Shortly after Clements’ killing, authorities said they were looking for a “boxy” sedan seen idling near the house.
According to Colorado court records, Ebel was arrested at least seven times between 2003 and 2010 for crimes including burglary, weapons possession, assault, menacing, robbery and trespassing.
“He clearly was a troubled young man, but there was nothing that would have suggested he was capable of these types of incidents,” Denver-based attorney Scott Robinson, who represented Ebel in four cases in 2004, told Reuters.
Mark Potok, senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said the 211 Crew, also known as the Aryan Alliance, was founded in 1995 by Colorado prison inmate Benjamin Davis, who is serving an 108-year sentence after his conviction for racketeering, conspiracy and other charges under the state’s Organized Crime Control Act.
“The group started out as a protective group, but quickly morphed into a criminal enterprise,” Potok said, adding that the 211s are known for the “harshness” of their discipline, he said.
He said the 211s were a “blood in, blood out” gang, meaning a prospective member must commit a violent act at the direction of one of the gang’s higher-ups, or “shot callers.”
Once paroled 211 members are on the street they are expected to start earning money, usually through criminal activity, and forward the proceeds to incarcerated gang leaders, Potok said.
Two 211 Crew members were convicted of killing an African immigrant at a Denver bus stop in 1997 and paralyzing a bystander. Potok said the 211s killed the African man for “wearing the enemy’s colors” - meaning he had black skin.
Reporting by Jim Forsyth, Robin Respaut, Alex Dobuzinskis, Dan Whitcomb and Keith Coffman; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Doina Chiacu and Andre Grenon