Colorado Corrections Chief Killed at His Home, Police Seek Motive and Suspect

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Image: Tom Clements
Colorado Department of Corrections / AP

Tom Clements

Colorado authorities are continuing to search for leads in the Tuesday evening murder of the head of the state’s prison system, and police in El Paso County, Colo., say they have little evidence so far to help them track down the shooter.

Lt. Jeff Kramer, spokesman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, said an assailant came to the home of Tom Clements, 58, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and opened fire, shooting him directly in the chest as he answered his front door. A family member called 911 at about 8:37 p.m. to report the incident. It was unclear if the family member actually saw the shooter.

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The shooting took place at the Clements’ home in a secluded, upscale area of Monument, Colo., about 20 miles from Colorado Springs, on the eastern edge of Pike National Forest.

But Kramer said no evidence was found of a robbery or home invasion and he doesn’t know if Clements was specifically targeted because of his job. But he did not rule out that possibility.  “Serving in that type of position could in fact make him a target of folks who would have motive to target him for a crime such as this,” he told reporters early Wednesday. Kramer said he is unaware of any threats to Clements, or other members of the state cabinet.

After the shooting, authorities increased security at the governor’s mansion. Although the killer is still at large, the neighborhood where the shooting took place is not believed to be in any immediate danger. “We just don’t have a description, in fact if we did we realize that would be valuable to get out to the public so folks could help us in identifying who that suspect might be or where they might be,” said Kramer.

Police have not released details on the extent of Clements’ injuries, or what kind of weapon was used. Kramer said there is currently no description of the assailant, but one witness vaguely described seeing a 1990s model vehicle in the area around the time of the shooting that drove off minutes later.

Clements was put in charge of Colorado’s Department of Corrections in 2001 by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Prior to that, he had been with the Missouri prison system for 31 years, working his way up in various roles from parole officer to deputy director, according to the Colorado DOC website. He is survived by his wife, Lisa and two daughters.

Hickenlooper held a press conference Wednesday morning to speak about Clements, eulogizing a man he called “far and away the best choice we could find in the country.”

“He understood that as you release prisoners, the better job you did of preparing them, that this would dramatically decrease the chances of them being reincarcerated,” Hickenlooper said.

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