An El Paso County judge was back at work Monday after he reportedly went into hiding amid a death threat attributed to the same white supremacist prison gang eyed in the slaying of Colorado's prisons chief.
El Paso County Judge Jonathon Walker was targeted for a "hit" by the 211 Crew after signing search warrants related to the slaying of Colorado Department of Corrections Chief Tom Clements, The Denver Post reported Monday.
Although Walker has been away on vacation for roughly two weeks, he was back at work on the morning of the Denver newspaper report - and declining interviews.
Clements, 58, was gunned down March 19 as he answered the door at his Monument-area home, and authorities quickly identified his killer as parolee and 211 Crew member Evan Ebel - fueling questions about possible involvement by his associates.
Ebel - also suspected in the death of Denver pizza delivery driver Nathan Leon - died in a March 21 shootout with law enforcement authorities while on the run in Wise County, Texas.
Citing a confidential source with knowledge of the case, the Post reported that Judge Walker has taken steps to protect himself against assailants - including leaving his Colorado Springs home, purchasing a .380-caliber pistol and wearing a bulletproof vest. According to the Post, he is under protective guard by Colorado Springs police, who urged him to leave his home on a busy street where they said he would be a "sitting duck."
Although word of the threat wasn't disclosed to the public, members of the El Paso County bench were notified in early August, standard procedure in the case of threats against a court officer, said El Paso County Chief District Judge Gilbert Martinez.
Martinez said he was aware of no other threats to El Paso County judges.
He said no changes were necessary to courthouse security. The Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex houses the El Paso County courts, which generally handle misdemeanors and traffic violations, as well as the District courts where felonies are prosecuted. The courthouse has metal detectors at both entrances.
The courthouse last year took steps to restrict access to judges' quarters in part of the building that had been open to the public.
Those changes were part of long-scheduled improvements and weren't related to any threats, said 4th Judicial District Administrator Mary Perry.
Threats to El Paso County judges are rare but not unheard of, court officers say. Martinez, for example, was targeted in the early 2000s by a gunman who fired into his home in what police believe was an act of retaliation over court business. Bruce Nozolino of Colorado Springs is awaiting a January trial in that attack and others related to a divorce.