MONUMENT, Colo. - A speed-walker who may have been in the area when the director of the state Department of Corrections was gunned down is being sought by investigators. She could have important information about a vehicle of interest in the case.
Tom Clements was shot in the chest at about 8:45 p.m. when he answered the door at his house in the 17400 block of Colonial Park Drive in Monument, according to El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer.
Police dispatcher radio traffic said 911 initially received a hang-up call from Clements’ home. Then another call came from Clements’ wife who reported the shooting, according to a recording at RadioReference.com.
“RP (reporting party) is a female party saying her husband has been shot in the chest at this address,” said a dispatcher, adding that the victim was not conscious or breathing.
“Be advised RP saying someone rang the doorbell and the husband answered the door and was shot,” the dispatcher said. “….RP and the patient are in the house on the stairs at this time.”
Sheriff's officials said a white woman, between 35 and 50 years old, may have been speed-walking along Colonial Park Drive around 8:30 p.m. She was wearing light pants, a dark wind breaker and a hat. The woman is not a suspect, but the sheriff's office would like to speak with her about a vehicle of interest.
Moments before the ambush, a resident in the area saw an older model, boxy, two-door car parked with the engine running, Kramer said. No one was in the car at the time.
The vehicle was seen idling near Clements' home about 15 minutes before the shooting was reported, authorities said.
Then, minutes later, the neighbor saw the same vehicle driving by with one person inside. There is no description of the driver -- investigators don’t know if it was a man or a woman.
The vehicle is described as black or dark colored and similar to a '90s model Lincoln, with green dashboard lights. The car -- said to be "shiny" -- was last seen going westbound on Higby Road, turning south onto Jackson Creek Parkway.
The speed-walker is being asked to call 719-390-5555 to speak with an investigator about that vehicle.
A credible source within the sheriff's office tells CALL7 Investigator Tak Landrock that investigators are focusing on cellphone records right now because they want to know who Clements had contact with during the past few days.
The source also said investigators think this could have been a pre-arranged meeting and that the killing doesn't look sophisticated or organized.
Investigators do not have a motive for the shooting, but it appears Clements was targeted. His two-story home is in a remote wooded area with many large lots surrounding it. Investigators said they did not think there was any danger to other residents in the neighborhood.
"We are sensitive to the high-profile position in which Mr. Clements served and the fact there could be people who would target him based on his position. However, we remain open-minded to all investigative possibilities and continue to work all available clues and sources of information," the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.
Investigators began searching the wooded area around Clements' home on Tuesday night.
"We did have some efforts from our K-9 unit to see if they could locate anything that might be helpful in this investigation. Those efforts have been met with negative results," Kramer said.
Authorities went house-to-house in the Bent Tree subdivision Wednesday morning trying to find out what neighbors know about the shooting, Kramer said. Investigators believe they’ve talked to almost all of Clements' neighbors.
Investigators are not aware of any surveillance equipment that could help in the search, or any special security precautions that may have been in place because of Clements' position in the Department of Corrections.
“We stand here with leaden hearts and insufficient words,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, during an 8:30 a.m. news conference. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lisa, their daughters and with all the employees of the Department of Corrections that Tom worked so hard with.”
"He is going to be deeply, deeply missed," Hickenlooper said. "He was a great friend to me, to, I think, all of us. In many ways he helped define what a public servant is. He did his job quietly and intently."
"An incident like this, in some ways, whether it's an act of retaliation for something that as yet we don't know about, it is also an act of intimidation," Hickenlooper said. "We're not going to consciously slow down, certainly not stop. He would expect no less."
The Colorado State Patrol said that it has increased security at the Capitol and at the governor's mansion because of the shooting. CSP Capt. Jeff Goodwin said there is no specific threat against Hickenlooper or other state officials, but tighter security would remain in place until the near future.
Hickenlooper announced all flags fly at half-staff at all public buildings statewide, until the day after Clements' funeral. Those arrangements are pending.
At 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Hickenlooper released an email to DOC staffers that said he “can hardly believe it, let alone write words to describe it.”
“We are sad, we are very sad," DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan said.
Clements, 58, was appointed the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections in January 2011, after having served as the head of the department of corrections in Missouri for 31 years.
Hickenlooper said Clements would likely have retired in Missouri when the governor lured him to Colorado to serve as head of this state's prison system.
"As your executive director, he helped change and improve (the department) 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. I am so sad. I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can't imagine our team without him," Hickenlooper said.
Clements is survived by his wife, Lisa Clements, and his two daughters, Sara and Rachel.
The family 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."
Residents in the upscale neighborhood had mixed reaction to news of the shooting.
Neighbor Paul Guillan said, "We ended up blacking out our house and making sure that we were safe. But all of our prayers go out to the family. We truly, truly are so sorry for their loss."
Another neighbor told 7NEWS reporter Tyler Lopez, "I'm not worried. I believe he [Clements] was targeted. It's disappointing that one of our own was killed like this."
As chief of the Department of Corrections, Clements was responsible for managing and operating 19 prison facilities and the Youthful Offender System. He was in charge of just over 6,000 employees who supervise more than 23,000 offenders in prisons and community placements in the state.
According to his online bio, Clements joined the Missouri Department of Corrections in 1979. His first job was as a probation and parole officer.
The director of Missouri’s Department of Corrections, George Lombardi, told 7NEWS that he asked Clements to come on board as assistant director in 1999.
“We worked together for a number of years,” Lombardi said. “I got to know him really well.”
Lombard said, “I was devastated when I got a call in the middle of the night from the Director of Prison’s for Colorado. He had the decency of letting me know what happened before we read it in the newspaper.”
Lombard described Clements as a good and decent man.
“He was very responsible and innovative,” Lombard said. “He was always at the forefront of dealing with issues like inmate mental health and substance abuse.”
In a statement issued Wednesday about Clements' death, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said: "This is a heartbreaking tragedy for Tom Clements' family and everyone who was fortunate enough to have known him, including his many friends at the Missouri Department of Corrections. Tom dedicated his professional life and his considerable skills to public service and protection, and the citizens of Missouri join the people of Colorado in mourning this tremendous loss."
A number of agencies are helping the El Paso Sheriff’s Office, including the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the district attorney's office, the attorney general's office, the Monument Police Department, the Palmer Lake Police Department and the Department of Corrections.
Anyone with information regarding this vehicle or crime is encouraged to call the Sheriff's Office at 719-390-5555.
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