Colorado corrections chief slain in his home
MONUMENT, Colo. — Colorado's top state prison official was shot and killed when he answered the front door of his house, setting off a hunt for the shooter and raising questions about whether the attack had anything to do with his job.
Tom Clements, 58, was shot around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Monument, north of Colorado Springs, and a witness reported a person driving away in a dark-colored “boxy” car that had its engine running at the time of the shooting, authorities said.
Investigators were exploring all possibilities, including that the shooting could have been related to Clements' job as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, which he took after years working in Missouri corrections.
The killing stunned officials in both states. They described Clements, who is married with two daughters, as dedicated, funny, caring and an expert on the latest and best methods in his field who chose the Colorado job over retirement.
On Wednesday at a news conference, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was red-eyed and somber, speaking haltingly as he said he didn'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.
“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,” said Hickenlooper, who planned to go to Monument to meet with Clements' family after signing gun-control bills.
While the motive of the killing wasn't immediately clear, similar attacks on officials have been on the rise in the United States, said Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office in California who tracks such incidents worldwide. He said there have been as many in the past three years as the entire prior decade.
The attacks are often motivated by revenge, said McGovern, who has documented more than 133 attacks, including 41 homicides, against judges, prosecutors and other justice and police officials since 1950.
Meanwhile, Hickenlooper signed bills that put sweeping new restrictions on sales of firearms and ammunition in a state with a pioneer tradition of gun ownership and self-reliance.
The bills thrust Colorado into the national spotlight as a potential test of how far the country might be willing to go with new gun restrictions because of the horror of mass killings at an Aurora movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school.