In the weeks before he assassinated Colorado prison chief Tom Clements, Evan Ebel repeatedly told another 211 Crew member that he “was taking care of things on the street for other inmates” and would “likely die soon,” an investigative document reveals.
The new discovery by The Gazette of the recorded conversations between Ebel and a federal prisoner further calls into question a push in 2016 from El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder to close the investigation into the murder of Clements, critics contend.
“This evidence is compelling,” said Mark Pfoff, a retired El Paso County sheriff’s detective who wrote more than 20 search warrant applications in the investigation into the murder of Clements. “Here you have the voice of the actual perpetrator basically confirming a conspiracy. He says in his own words that he’s doing something for people inside the prison system and predicting that as a result he’ll end up dead.”
Elder in the past has said he believes Ebel acted alone and has disputed a 77-page Texas Rangers investigative report that concluded Ebel’s actions were directed and ordered by the hierarchy of the 211 Crew. Previous press reports quoted Elder as stating in 2016: “I can tell you definitively Evan Ebel is the only one who killed Tom Clements. To make the leap that there was a giant conspiracy is not supported by the evidence.”
Elder moved to close the investigation into Clements’ killing that year, telling The Gazette then “there is no evidence to dispute that Ebel acted alone.” Elder quickly reversed course and kept the case open after meeting with other investigators and then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Jacqueline Kirby, Elder’s spokeswoman, said the investigation into the Clements' murder remains open, which she said restrains her or any sheriff’s investigators from discussing the case. Kirby said “thousands and thousands of hours” have been spent by investigators on the killing of Clements since Pfoff left the Sheriff’s Office in 2014, though she declined to identify how many investigators are working the case.
The telephone calls from a federal prisoner to Ebel were captured on the system that records phone calls for the federal Bureau of Prisons. A search warrant affidavit obtained by The Gazette references the phone calls. The newspaper also obtained an email from an FBI agent to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office describing the four phone calls the incarcerated 211 Crew member made to Ebel.
In the last conversation, on March 10, 2013, the inmate tells his fellow 211 Crew member Ebel to “try not to snap over stupid s**t out there.”
“Too late, too late, something snapped years ago,” replied Ebel, as the conversation ended, according to the FBI agent’s account.
Nine days after that final call, Ebel committed one of the most notorious murders in Colorado history. He disguised himself as a pizza delivery man to ambush and kill the highest-ranking corrections official in Colorado.
Clements’ wife, Lisa, later told investigators that she and her husband had been watching television the night of March 19, 2013. She heard two gunshots as her husband answered the front door of their home in Monument. The force of the bullets sent him reeling backward and tumbling down steps. He cried out for her to call 911.
But it was too late. Her husband could not be saved. In less than half an hour the authorities pronounced Tom Clements dead.
Ebel fled to Texas, driving a black 1991 Cadillac Seville, a wanted man for the killings of Clements and of Nathan Leon, an IBM employee and father of three who had taken a part-time job as a pizza delivery man to make ends meet for his family.
Ebel died in a March 21, 2013, shootout with Texas lawmen after crashing his car and shooting a sheriff’s deputy in the forehead, chest and shoulder. The deputy was left with injuries so severe a titanium metal plate later had to be inserted in his head.
Ever since, an intense debate has divided Colorado authorities in charge of ensuring justice for the killing of Tom Clements. Was Ebel a lone wolf gunman, a lowly 211 Crew member who went off the rails due to years of solitary confinement in the state prison system? Did he concoct his deeds solely on his own?
Or were Ebel’s activities methodically planned and coordinated by the hierarchy of the 211 Crew who ordered Ebel to kill a man who had devoted his life to public service? Did other high-ranking gang members provide Ebel the addresses and directions to Clements’ home as well as that of several other government officials later found on a hit list in Ebel’s getaway car along with material for a pipe bomb?
Determining the right answer is crucial. If other members of a gang that espoused white supremacy as a guiding principle were complicit in Ebel’s murders, they’ve never been held to account.
Further evidence exists pointing to a potential conspiracy, including the fact that a public official living in Pueblo who worked on the medical team of the state prison system reported getting a suspicious knock on her front door the same night of the Clements’ murder near the same time as the attack at Clements’ home.
The medical officer’s daughter answered the door to find an individual wearing a hood with tattoos on his neck asking for the medical officer, Pfoff confirmed for The Gazette, who learned of the door knock from another source with ties to the investigation. The daughter said she was so fearful that she lied and told the person at the front door that her mother wasn’t home, prompting him to leave. The address of the medical officer later was found on the kill list found in Ebel’s car.
“As I’ve stated from the beginning of my quest to get justice for Tom Clements, there is overwhelming evidence of a 211 Crew conspiracy to kill Tom Clements,” Pfoff said. “How much more evidence needs to come out to prove Sheriff Bill Elder lied when he said there was no evidence of a conspiracy?”
Former Commander Juan San Agustin, the lead investigator for the Sheriff’s Office on the Clements’ slaying, also resigned from the Sheriff’s Office to start a consulting business and was indicted on kidnapping charges in 2014. San Agustin has filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit in federal court after his criminal charges were dismissed, contending he was subjected to retaliation for criticizing a lack of indictments from El Paso County District Attorney Dan May against potential 211 Crew co-conspirators in the murder.
The four phone calls captured on prison recordings between Ebel and the other 211 Crew member occurred between February 9, 2013, and March 10, 2013, states the search warrant affidavit obtained by The Gazette.
An FBI agent who reviewed the recordings alerted El Paso County investigators to their existence, describing them in an email this way: “During these recorded conversations Ebel makes several comments in reference to not coming back to prison, taking care of things on the street for other inmates, having something to do, and indicates he will likely die soon.”
A judge approved the search warrant application and El Paso County sheriff’s investigators seized the recordings and took them in as evidence as they strived to build a conspiracy case against other 211 Crew leaders they believe were complicit in the murders, according to three people familiar with what happened.
The contents of the recordings remain shielded from public view as do the search warrant application and other documents in the case. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office declined a request from The Gazette to make available for public review the records and any other search warrants in the case.
The Gazette obtained heavily redacted copies of the FBI agent’s email and the search warrant application from a person with ties to the investigation. Pfoff confirmed their authenticity, though he declined to say whether he authored the search warrant affidavit. The Gazette could not obtain the actual recordings of the telephone calls.
The Gazette’s discovery of the telephone calls from Ebel follows the newspaper’s recent revelation that Ben Davis, the founder of the 211 Crew, also believed there was a wider conspiracy that led to the killing of Clements. Davis agreed to wear a law enforcement wire in prison to gather evidence against other 211 Crew members he identified as likely complicit in the killing of Clements, three people with ties to the investigation recently confirmed.
In addition, The Gazette recently reported that prosecutors drafted a letter offering immunity to a previously undisclosed second confidential informant in prison for testimony against potential 211 co-consiprators in the murder of Clements. Another confidential informant in Texas who identified James Lohr, the ranking general of the 211 Crew in Colorado Springs, as ordering Ebel to kill Clements also was offered immunity. Lohr, in previous press reports, has denied any involvement.
Despite prosecutors offering immunity to the two informants, The Gazette could not determine whether they ever provided any sworn testimony. The case remains open.