A former Colorado inmate being investigated over the death of the state prisons chief died on Friday after a harrowing 160kph car chase and shootout with police in Texas.
His identity must still be officially confirmed by fingerprint analysis, but investigators believe he is Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a Colorado parolee.
Authorities also are trying to determine whether the car Ebel drove was the same seen outside the home of Tom Clements, the prison official, who was shot and killed when he answered the door on Tuesday evening.
The Denver Post first reported Ebel’s name, and that he was a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211s.
A US federal law enforcement official confirmed his identity and gang affiliation to the Associated Press.
The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Ebel is also a suspect in the slaying of a Colorado pizza deliveryman who disappeared from work and whose body was found last Sunday evening.
Ebel is not on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, but the center rates the gang as one of the most vicious white supremacist groups operating in the nation’s prisons, comparable to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
Founded in 1995 to protect white prisoners from attacks, it operates only in Colorado and has anywhere from between a couple hundred to 1,000 members, senior fellow Mark Potok said on Friday.
The gang has grown into a sophisticated criminal enterprise where members are assigned military titles like “general” and extort money from fellow prisoners, regardless of race.
Released members are expected to make money to support those still in prison, Potok said. He said members have to attack someone to get in and can only get out by dying.
In 2005, 32 members were indicted for racketeering and the gang’s founder, Benjamin Davis, was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
The killing of Clements, 58, shocked his quiet neighborhood for its brutality: He answered the door of his home on Tuesday evening and was gunned down. Authorities would not say if they thought the attack was related to his job, and all Clements’ recent public activities and cases were scrutinized.
The Texas car chase started when a sheriff’s deputy in Montague County tried to pull over the Cadillac about 11am on Thursday, authorities said. They would not say exactly why he was stopped, but called it routine.
The driver opened fire on the deputy, wounding him, Wise County Sheriff David Walker said at a news conference in Decatur. He then fled south before crashing as he tried to elude his pursuers.
After the crash, he got out of the vehicle, shooting at deputies and troopers who had joined the chase. He shot at Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins four times as the chief tried to set up a roadblock.
The deputy who was shot was wearing a bulletproof vest and was at a Fort Worth hospital, authorities said. Officials had said he was not seriously injured but later said his condition was unknown.
Legal records show Ebel was convicted of several crimes in Colorado dating back to 2003, including assaulting a prison guard in 2008.
He apparently was paroled, but Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan said she could not release any information because of the ongoing investigation into Clements’ death.