US state prisons chief shot, killed at home

 The home of Tom Clements the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections is pictured near Monument, Colo., on Wednesday, March 20, 2...
 El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer leaves  a news conference near the home of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements in Monument, Colo...

Corrections Director Killed

The home of Tom Clements the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections is pictured near Monument, Colo., on Wednesday, March 20, 2...

Corrections Director Killed

El Paso County Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer leaves a news conference near the home of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements in Monument, Colo...

Authorities were on the hunt Wednesday for a gunman who shot and killed Colorado's prisons chief at his home, as security for the state's governor and other officials was ratcheted up.
Similar attacks on public officials are on the rise in the United States, though experts say they remain rare.
It's unknown what role Tom Clements' position as executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections might have played in his fatal shooting Tuesday, but investigators said they aren't ruling out any possible motives, including whether it was random or a work-related attack.
Colorado corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson would not comment on whether Clements had security at his home. Security was stepped up for other state officials, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was ashen-faced as he addressed reporters at the Capitol before signing bills placing new restrictions on firearms.
"Tom Clements dedicated his life to being a public servant, to making our state a better place and he is going to be deeply, deeply missed," Hickenlooper said Wednesday.
Authorities are looking for a late-model car, possibly a Lincoln or a Cadillac, that a neighbor spotted outside Clements' home around the time of the shooting Tuesday, El Paso County Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said in a report carried by the Denver Post.
Kramer also said investigators want to speak with a woman seen speed-walking near Clements' home not long before the shooting because she may have seen the suspect. The woman was wearing light pants, a dark windbreaker and possibly a hat.
While small in numbers, similar attacks on officials have been increasing in the U.S. in recent years, said Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office in California who tracks such incidents worldwide. He said there have been roughly as many in the past three years _ at least 35 _ as the entire prior decade. Revenge is usually the motive, he added.
"It's often taking place away from the office, which makes sense, because everyone's hardening up their facilities," he said, adding that he advises prosecutors to constantly assess the safety of their residences.
On Jan. 31, Texas prosecutor Mark Hasse was gunned down as he left his car in the parking lot to the county courthouse. McGovern also counts the rampage by an ex-Los Angeles police officer who killed the daughter of a retired city police officer as part of a plot to avenge his firing.
In Colorado, a prosecutor was fatally shot in 2008 as he returned to his Denver home. In 2001, federal prosecutor Thomas Wales was fatally shot by a rifleman while he worked on a computer at night in his Seattle home. Both cases remain unsolved.
Attacks on legal officials are still extremely rare, said Scott Burns of the National District Attorneys Association, which counts 11 prosecutors as having been slain in the last 50 years. But he acknowledged that legal officials are vulnerable outside of protected offices and courthouses.
"If someone wants to truly harm or kill them, it's very difficult, frankly. There's not a lot we can do," he said.
Mike McLelland, the district attorney in rural Kaufman county east of Dallas, is a 23-year military veteran. Since his prosecutor, Hasse, was killed on his way into the office, McLelland has warned his staff to be vigilant about their surroundings and possible danger.
"The people in my line of work are going to have to get a lot better at it, because they're going to need it more in the future," McLelland said, adding that he carries a gun everywhere he goes.
Clements lived in a wooded neighborhood of large, two-story houses on 2-acre (0.81-hectare) lots dotted with evergreen trees. Long driveways connect the homes to narrow, winding roads that thread the hills. After word of the shooting spread Tuesday night, some residents slept with shotguns at the ready, fearful the shooter would return.
It would have been simple to find Clements' house. It took two clicks to get his street address through a publicly available Internet locator service Wednesday morning. The listing also included his previous address in Missouri.
McGovern said he tells his prosecutors to assume that any possible assailants can find their home addresses online and to check for areas they may be especially vulnerable such as neighboring alleys and poorly lit porches.
There is no central database of attacks on legal officials and senior law enforcement executives like Clements.
McGovern has documented 133 of them in the U.S. since 1950 by searching news accounts and court cases. The total includes 41 killings of judges, prosecutors and other justice and police officials. The assaults usually come with little warning, he said.
Steven K. Swensen, a former U.S. Marshal who runs a business consulting on security for court officials, said attacks on legal staff used to occur in courtrooms. As security has been expanded to protect those rooms, then courthouses, the attacks have spilled out further and further.
"Now we're having more violence off-site, in judges' houses, on their way to and from work," Swensen said.
Clements' survivors include two daughters and his wife, who is director of the state Office of Behavioral Health.
Hickenlooper ordered flags lowered to half-staff at public buildings until the day after Clements' funeral.
Associated Press writers P. Solomon Banda, Nicholas Riccardi, Thomas Peipert, Steven K. Paulson, Dan Elliott, Nicholas Riccardi, Alexandra Tilsley, and Colleen Slevin in Colorado; and Maria Sudekum in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.

Updated : 2021-02-27 08:26 GMT+08:00