Colorado prison chief's death probe extends to Texas police chase
POSTED: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 11:19am
UPDATED: Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 5:31pm
DECATUR, TX — Colorado authorities are working to determine whether a high-speed chase Thursday involving a man who shot repeatedly at law enforcement officers in Texas is related to this week's shooting death of Tom Clements, Colorado's prison chief.
The chase and crash occurred in north Texas, about 700 miles from where Clements was killed Tuesday night. It began around 11 a.m. CT (noon ET) in Montague County, where the driver of a black Cadillac shot at a law enforcement officer who had pulled him over in a traffic stop, said Wise County, Texas, Sheriff David Walker.
Two bullets struck the Montague County deputy, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, in the chest and another grazed his head before he managed to call in help, said the sheriff. He is in serious condition at a Dallas-Fort Worth area hospital.
This incident was followed by a high-speed chase that ended around 30 miles away in Decatur, Texas. That's where city police tried to pull him over, and the Cadillac's driver fled and started shooting at officers. The suspect shot one patrol vehicle and that of Decatur police Chief Rex Hoskins, whose car was parked in the median.
"I would say he was running about 100 mph, and he had his left arm out the window and he was just shooting," Hoskins said.
Soon after that, the man turned his Cadillac onto another road and slammed into an 18-wheel truck, according to Walker. Even with the front of his car crushed, the suspect -- who has not been publicly identified -- got out and resumed shooting.
He did not shoot any responding officers in the Wise County exchange, but was shot himself.
After being kept alive on machines for some time, the suspect died Thursday evening, according to Walker.
The Cadillac had two different Colorado license plates -- one on the front and the other on the back -- said Hoskins. A law enforcement official said Thursday that authorities are "are taking a strong look" at whether Thursday's incident and Clements' shooting are linked.
"Colorado is sending ... investigators that are working on that case and other homicide cases in the Colorado area," Walker said.
Saudi national's case considered in probe
The Texas incident comes the same day that Colorado investigators said they were looking closely at one criminal of the thousands that Clements' oversaw in the state's prison system -- a Saudi national named Homaidan al-Turki.
El Paso County, Colorado, Undersheriff Paula Presley on Thursday acknowledged the media speculation over al-Turki, who was convicted of sexually assaulting his housemaid at his Aurora, Colorado, home seven years ago. Earlier this month, Clements denied al-Turki's request to serve the remainder of his Colorado prison sentence in Saudi Arabia, records show.
Investigators, she said, are still trying to determine whether "there may have been some motivation or legitimate threat" related to al-Turki's case, adding that "we have not identified that specifically as a threat."
Al-Turki, now at the Limon Correctional Facility, was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison after being convicted on a dozen counts of sexual contact, theft, extortion and false imprisonment in 2006, a state document shows. Prosecutors said he enslaved his Indonesian maid for several years.
At the request of the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers traveled to Riyadh in 2006 to meet with King Abdullah, other Saudi officials and the al-Turki family to discuss the case.
Clements explained in a March 11 letter to al-Turki that he was turning down his transfer request because al-Turki had refused to go through sex offender treatment, as required by law.
"To date you have reportedly declined due to religious reasons/conflicts with your Islamic faith," Clements wrote.
The letter also notes that on February 25, 2011, al-Turki's sentence was reduced to six years to life.
CNN has not received a response to its requests for comment from al-Turki's lawyers.
In light of the renewed attention on his case, al-Turki was removed this week from the rest of his prison's population, according to the state's department of corrections.
Late prisons chief described as 'amazing man'
Clements had been chief of Colorado's prison system for a little over two years. He took the job in January 2011 after working for 31 years as part of Missouri's Department of Corrections.
In his time in Colorado, he'd made a big impression.
"He was an amazing man, an amazing man," Alison Morgan, spokeswoman for Colorado's Department of Corrections, said Thursday. "An inspirational leader."
He was killed around 8:45 p.m. MT (10:45 p.m. ET) Tuesday, as he answered the door of his Monument, Colorado, home.
Since then, investigators had said they knew very little about who might have pulled the trigger.
Some witnesses, though, said they saw a man driving a vehicle -- possibly a Lincoln Continental or a two-door Cadillac -- away from the neighborhood a short time after the shooting. Others reported seeing a black, boxy vehicle with its engine running but no one inside on Clements' street.
Asked Thursday whether the prison chief's killing may have been a professional hit, Presley from the El Paso County, Colorado, Sheriff's Office said, "We don't have any specific information that would lead us to that."
The central Colorado county sheriff office's major crimes unit has received more than 100 solid tips about the incident, including a growing number of witnesses describing a black car then in the area.
Meanwhile, the mourning continues for Clements. His funeral will be held Sunday, Gov. John Hickenlooper's office said, and he'll be remembered at a public memorial service in Colorado Springs the next day.