Yes, the executive director of the Colorado Corrections Department was shot dead at his front door last night at 8:30 p.m., less than 13 hours before the governor of Colorado signed into law some of the most sweeping gun-control legislation since the Newtown massacre. But before this still-cold case turns into hot speculation of a prison "beef" gone Breaking Bad, remember the two big things we know so far: If this was indeed a hit on the 58-year-old Tom Clements (pictured at right), it's either because he made serious enemies seriously fast during his two years in Colorado, or because someone from his 31 years in Missouri's Department of Corrections came a long way to hunt him down.
To be sure, Clements's murder does not seem random. Authorities have initially concluded that robbery was not a motive, reports the Denver Post, and no one else in Clements's family was harmed. According to local news reports, Clements answered his front door and no one has a good description on a suspect yet; there's already been a "vehicle of interest" identified by investigators, but there seem to be few political motives apparent — Clements was opposed to the death penalty.
And then you have to take into account where Clements lived. He and his wife and two children lived in the town of Monument, an upscale neighborhood off of Interstate 25. It was an idyllic scene, reports the AP — "a wooded neighborhood of large, two-story houses on expansive 2-acre lots dotted with evergreen trees in an area known as the Black Forest. Long driveways connect the homes to narrow, winding roads that thread the hills." Monument, compared to rest of the country, is relatively safe: In 2009, the area was well below the national and state average for violent crime. From 2002-2009, not a single murder was on the record books for the neighborhood. And surely the guy in charge of a state prison system has more than just locks on his doors.
Clements was in charge of overseeing Colorado's 20 adult prisons, a position he was appointed to in January of 2011. CNN's reporters on the ground claim that Clements was a low-profile official with "no apparent beefs" from his time in the state. Hickenlooper, in a brief press conference just before he went to sign a high-profile piece gun legislation limiting high-capacity magazines and enforcing background checks, called the killing "an act of intimidation" but insisted that "we don't know enough" and that he couldn't comment further about an ongoing investigation beyond a statement that said Clements had "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." There certainly could been unease in Missouri's Department of Corrections, where Clements spent more than three decades before switching jobs.
Police are still on the hunt for the gunman, and their only public lead right now is that car. As KOAA-TV's David Ortiviz, reports, police are hesitant to say if this killing was premeditated:
"We don't know if shooting is random. We don't have a suspect at this time. We don't know a motive." #TomClements— David Ortiviz (@ortiviz) March 20, 2013
Even if the police won't confirm that the murder of Clements was not random, Colorado still has its prison chief dead, and with very few to no answers. Don't jump to conclusions, but it does sound pretty bad.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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