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Who gunned down Colorado's top prison official?
Rumors are swirling about the murder of Tom Clements, 58, who was shot in front of his home in a quiet suburb
 
An undated, official photo of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
An undated, official photo of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. REUTERS/Colorado Department of Corrections

As soon as news broke that Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was gunned down in front of his home in Monument, Colo., on Tuesday night, speculation about what happened and who did it began to fly. The El Paso County Sheriff's Department acknowledged that the nature of Clements' job and his cold-blooded murder made a hitman narrative a possibility, telling Reuters, "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."

So who wanted him dead? Well, possibly a lot of people. Clements had been in charge of Colorado's prisons for the past two years and before that, he worked at the Missouri Department of Corrections for three decades. The fact that he was shot hours before Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was about to sign three major gun-control measures also raised some eyebrows.

Gawker's homepage, for example, led with this splash:

The Gawker story wasn't outright blaming gun-rights activists for murdering Clements, but it's not hard to read between the lines. Yes, as Gawker noted, Hickenlooper did call the shooting "an act of intimidation," but a read of the cited New York Times article reveals that the governor was making a more general statement about Clements' position as head of Colorado's prison system, and not hinting at a murder plot by gun-rights advocates. Hickenlooper told The New York Times that "Mr. Clements had been supportive of the gun measures but was not 'particularly active' during their emotional and contentious path toward passage."

The New York Daily News and others are also speculating — though not necessarily in the gun-rights activist direction — and have gone so far as to name a potential shooter, despite the fact that Lt. Jeff Kramer, spokesman for the El Paso County Sheriff's office, told the Denver Post that police don't have a suspect. Regardless, several news agencies have already pointed to a Saudi national, in prison for assaulting his Indonesian housekeeper, who was recently denied extradition to his home country. FBI involvement in the case, and anonymous sources who told Fox 31 News that police are looking at the Saudi connection, have continued to fuel the rumors about the Saudi man, even though exactly zero law enforcement officials have publicly commented about the matter.   

So what do we know? Yes, Clements' murder seems to have all the hallmarks of a targeted killing. He was shot, according to the Denver Post, while answering his door in an "upscale, wooded neighborhood" that has relatively low crime rates. Nothing was stolen from his home and nobody else in his family was hurt. Still, as Alexander Abad-Santos of The Atlantic Wire notes, it's important to stick to the facts:

[B]efore 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, 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. [Atlantic Wire]

The only real clue police have shared with the public? A "boxy, two-door, late-model car that a neighbor spotted outside Clements' home around the time of the shooting." For now, that's about all we really do know.

 
Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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