MONUMENT, Colo. (CBS4) – A gunman shot and killed Tom Clements, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, at his home in Monument Tuesday night.
CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass first reported the story overnight after multiple state and corrections sources confirmed the incident.
Police said the shooting took place after Clements opened the front door of his house at 17420 Colonial Park Drive at approximately 8:30 p.m. A family member inside the home afterwards called 911 and apparently didn’t see the shooter.
“The wife came into the room said she thought something fell on the roof and that was most probably the gun shot,” said neighbor Matt Dunston.
A suspect had not been apprehended as of Wednesday morning, but officials said they had a vehicle of interest in the case.
El Paso County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said they are looking for the public’s help in their search for a car that was spotted near Clements home by a neighbor, at Colonial Park Drive and Scarsborogh Park.
First it was empty with a light on inside and then someone apparently got in and drove away. Those observations were made before and after the 911 call came in about Clements’ murder. The car was described as an older model, boxy-type car like a Lincoln, but not necessarily a Lincoln. It was either black or dark in color, very shiny and had 2 doors. It was seen driving away westbound on Hiby Road and then south on Jackson Creek Parkway.
“It’s described as being a two-door car, very boxy either black or dark-colored. It’s also being described as being very shiny,” said Kramer. “It was observed to be occupied by one person. We have no description on that one person.”
Clements, 58, was appointed to serve as the head of the DOC by Governor John Hickenlooper in January 2011. He oversaw operations of state and private prisons and parole operations. Clements came to Colorado from Missouri, where he worked for 31 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Kramer said earlier in the morning that the El Paso Sheriff’s office was searching overnight for a suspect or suspects using K9 units near Clements’ home.
“We are dealing with a relatively wooded environment so certainly during the hours of darkness (the search) becomes more challenging. We did have some initial help from our members of our K9 unit as well to help with that search. Those efforts have been retracted although we do have a number of deputies in the area who are doing a neighborhood canvas trying to make sure we contact all the neighbors in the area here to speak with them to see if they saw or heard anything last night,” said Kramer.
Police have not called the shooting a random crime.
“We’re sensitive to the fact that serving in that type of position could in fact make him a target or folks would have motive to target him in a crime such as this however we’re making sure we remain open minded to a number of other theories as well,” Kramer said.
At 2 p.m. Wednesday the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was made aware of a person who may have valuable information concerning the vehicle of interest which was identified earlier. They want to talk to a white female, 35-50 years of age, who may have been speed-walking last night along Colonial Park Drive at 8:30 p.m. She was wearing light pants, a dark wind breaker and a hat. This woman is not a suspect, but someone the sheriff’s office would like to speak with. She is being asked to call (719) 520-7225 to speak with an investigator.
“It was a targeted event, given his occupation and background. One could almost not help but think that,” said Dunston.
DOC employees and other state employees were notified early Wednesday morning about the murder. In an email to Department of Corrections employees notifying them of the killing, Gov. Hickenlooper said, “I can hardly believe it, let alone write words to describe it. I am so sad. I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can’t imagine our team without him.”
The governor described Clements as “unfailingly kind and thoughtful” and also spoke about Clements’ life in a news conference at the capitol in Denver Wednesday morning.
State officials said they have increased security for top Colorado government appointed officials and have increased security at the governor’s mansion in the wake of the incident. Officials told Maass the move was purely precautionary and there was no threat that would make it seem other state leaders were in danger.
Hickenlooper ordered that all flags be lowered to half-staff Wednesday on all public buildings statewide in memory of Clements.
Clements is survived by his wife, Lisa, along with two daughters.
Letter From Gov. John Hickenlooper
The following is the complete statement emailed by Gov. John Hickenlooper addressing the case:
To: Employees of the Department of Corrections
Last night, Tom Clements was killed at his home in Monument. I can hardly believe it, let alone write words to describe it.
As your Executive Director, he helped change and improve DOC in two years more than most people could do in eight years. He was unfailingly kind and thoughtful, and sought the “good” in any situation. As you all know, in corrections that is not easy.
We have no more details than that. I am so sad. I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can’t imagine our team without him.
Tom regularly spoke of your professionalism and dedication to the department. It is during times like this that we must stand together to meet the Department’s public safety mission and to honor Tom’s memory.
I know that you all join me in sending prayers and support to Tom’s wife, Lisa, their two daughters and their family. For the next few days, please allow them to grieve with their family in private.
With all our heart,
Clements Family Statement
The family of Tom Clements released this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“We are thankful for the overwhelming support and concern that we have received in the wake of Tom’s death. Our family has lost a devoted husband and a beloved father. There are no words at this time to describe our grief and loss. We thank our friends and those praying for us here and across the nation. Your well-wishes and prayers bring us strength. We appreciate your continued respect for our privacy during this terrible loss.”