The day before the assassination of Colorado corrections chief Tom Clements, two members of the white supremacist gang the 211 Crew revealed during a prison cell discussion details about how the killing would go down, a prison informant claimed in previously undisclosed interviews with police.
“They were anxious,” the informant recounted to investigators with the Colorado Department of Corrections and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. “They were talking in real serious tones like this was going to happen real soon.”
He overheard them, he said, “talking about how, um, there was going to be a DOC official that was going to get popped. I didn’t know which one because they didn’t say. They were talking low, and they were talking about a 9 mm Beretta and how this official was going to get shot twice.”
The informant provided his information to investigators the day after the murder, asking to speak to them with what he described were crucial details about the murder. His statements were taken seriously, in part, because law enforcement officials had kept details of the murder secret, including that Clements had been shot twice — once in the chest and once in the shoulder — and that 9 mm shell casings were found at the scene.
Copies of recordings of two interviews with that informant and 18 other law enforcement interviews and phone conversations with three other prisoners were provided to The Gazette by a person with ties to the murder investigation. Two other individuals involved in the investigation confirmed the authenticity of the recordings. The individuals who provided and confirmed the recordings asked that their names not be revealed due to the sensitivity of the matters involved.
The more than five hours of recordings add additional circumstantial evidence that bolsters the conclusions in a previously disclosed investigative report from the Texas Rangers. That Texas Rangers’ report concluded, based in part on another confidential informant’s statements, that the 211 Crew’s hierarchy ordered Evan Ebel, a 211 Crew soldier, to kill Clements and orchestrated his attack.
The existence of the recording provided to The Gazette has been kept from the public for nearly seven years and contain new details about the murder investigation never before made public. One of the recordings includes an assertion from another informant that he had inside information that a 211 Crew general drove Ebel the night of the murder to Clements’ home in Monument in the getaway car, a 1991 black Cadillac DeVille.
The recordings recently disclosed to The Gazette provide new insight into why some investigators continue to discount that Ebel, identified by law enforcement as the gunman, acted as a lone-wolf attacker, and why those investigators continue to criticize El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder’s statement in 2016 that there was no evidence to support a wider conspiracy.
Elder in 2016 moved to shut down the investigation into the murder of Clements, stating he believed Ebel, who died in a shootout with law officers in Texas after he fled Colorado, acted on his own. Elder has since backtracked and reopened the investigation after meeting with then-Gov. John Hickenlooper and other investigators.
Elder declined comment for this article, stating that he believes discussing the matters would jeopardize the investigation. The spokeswoman for El Paso County District Attorney Dan May, who also has drawn criticism from original investigators for not pursuing conspiracy indictments or accessory to murder after the fact charges, did not return telephone messages and emails seeking comment.
Whether all of the recordings have been reviewed by the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the lead agency probing the murder of Clements, could not be determined. Nearly all of the interviews and recordings provided to The Gazette were conducted solely by investigators with the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Informants bolster Texas Rangers report
A scathing secret internal 2018 report at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office concluded a severe lack of coordination between El Paso authorities and corrections investigators hampered the investigation into the murders of Clements and Nathan Leon, whose pizza delivery uniform was used as a disguise by Ebel the night he killed Clements.
The lack of cooperation meant crucial evidence wasn’t reviewed in a timely manner, including some prison informant recordings, that report found. As a result the statute of limitations passed for some potential criminal charges, such as accessory to murder after the fact, according to the report from Larry Adkisson, the former top investigator at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
“It would be devastating to establish a suspect on conspiracy and not be able to pursue the case because the case was mishandled,” Adkisson’s report concluded.
In one of the law enforcement recordings conducted in 2013, and recently provided to The Gazette, a member of the 211 Crew claims that an associate of the 211 Crew told him that Ebel and three other 211 Crew members plotted the killing of Clements. That informant said he was told by a 211 Crew associate that James Lohr, a 211 Crew general, drove Ebel to Clements’ home the night of the killing.
Joining Ebel and Lohr in plotting the attack were two other high-ranking members of the gang, Christopher “Hog” Middleton and Thomas “Ghost” Guolee, the informant claimed a friend of Middleton’s told him. The informant claimed he extracted the information by cornering the associate and demanding that he say what he knew of the murder.
The three 211 Crew members identified by the informant as coordinating Ebel’s activities previously have denied involvement in the killing, though the Texas Rangers report shows that investigators established through cellphone records that Lohr, Middleton and Guolee were in constant contact with Ebel in the days and hours leading up to the murder of Clements and the days after the murder.
Further drawing suspicion was evidence that showed a couple of hours before the murder several of the gang members cellphones went dark with no activity. The evidence also showed that shortly after the murder their cellphones began registering activity again, according to two investigators.
Ebel died in a March 21, 2013, shootout with Texas lawmen after crashing his car and shooting a Texas sheriff’s deputy in the forehead, chest and shoulder.
Additional recordings obtained by an undercover prison informant using a law enforcement recording device later captured one of those 211 Crew members making incriminating statements about coordinating Ebel’s escape from Colorado, according to law enforcement records previously reviewed by The Gazette.
In that recording, obtained surreptitiously through the use of an undercover wire, the gang member states he fears sufficient evidence exists for prosecutors to criminally charge him and another 211 Crew member with accessory to murder after the fact for helping Ebel flee, the law enforcement records show.
The Texas Rangers’ investigative report shows that a 211 Crew member’s statements in Texas gave additional credence to what the corrections investigators in Colorado gathered as evidence.
The gang member in Texas agreed to provide details and testimony to prosecutors in exchange for immunity from prosecution, according to the Texas Rangers report. He would go on to become a confidential informant and tell El Paso County prosecutors that Lohr told him he ordered Ebel to kill Clements, and that Lohr also ordered the informant, who at that time was on parole in Texas, to help Ebel flee authorities and shelter him, the report shows.
‘Making peace in myself’
Another individual close to the investigation also provided The Gazette a recording of a prison telephone conversation that attracted the attention of investigators.
That recording captures a telephone conversation between Lohr, who was living in Colorado Springs at that time, and a 211 Crew lieutenant, Clinton Kanmore, who was two weeks from his release from prison.
“I’ll talk to you face to face,” Kanmore tells Lohr. “A lot of things I don’t want to say over the phone.”
The 211 Crew lieutenant was released from prison on March 19, 2013, about 14 hours before Clements’ killing and didn’t drive to his scheduled meeting with a parole officer in Denver.
Instead, he stopped in Colorado Springs to meet that day with Lohr, the gang’s general — a meeting set up during their telephone conversation two weeks earlier, according to investigators.
Several investigators on the case believe that during that meeting the lieutenant relayed a message from a “shot caller” — a gang leader — in the prison that the killing of Clements had been sanctioned by the gang’s hierarchy, but Lohr and Kanmore later denied to the police that any such conversation occurred.
Other investigators believe the Kanmore-Lohr meeting was held to discuss how Lohr’s son had been getting into trouble in prison and didn’t involve green-lighting the murder of Clements.
Several of the recordings provided to The Gazette show that within the walls of the Colorado prison system, prison informants told investigators that the March 19, 2013, ambush killing of a high-ranking corrections official, at his home’s doorstep, was no surprise.
“I felt that if I had reported it when I heard it, maybe it could have been stopped, and he could have been warned,” one informant told the investigators as he recounted how he overheard two high-ranking 211 Crew members predicting how a corrections official was going to be shot twice in the chest with a 9 mm Beretta handgun. A day after that interview, Texas authorities recovered a 9 mm handgun that Ebel used in his shootout with Texas authorities, though that gun turned out to be a Smith and Wesson instead of a Beretta.
In an interview with the DOC investigator and a detective with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, that informant said he felt a duty to come forward even though doing so could potentially put him at risk if he would later have to testify to what he claimed he had overheard.
“Why risk yourself or your family members?” the El Paso County detective asked him during the interview.
“For him and his family, because I guess in my own mind I’m making peace in myself for not reporting it right then and there because maybe I could have saved the dude’s life,” said the informant, who was serving a prison sentence for theft and writing bad checks.
Informants seek favors
In another of the recordings, a corrections investigator presses a 211 Crew captain for information on the killing. The investigators tells the 211 Crew captain, Jack Swearingen, that informants claimed they overheard him in the yard of the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility predicting with another 211 Crew lieutenant the impending murder of a high-ranking corrections official. That discussion occurred the day before the lieutenant was released from prison and the day before the March 19, 2013, murder, the investigator states on the recording.
“Yeah man, that didn’t happen,” Swearingen said, though he added that he believed the 211 Crew likely was complicit in the murder. Authorities had just relocated Swearingen from Arkansas Valley, where he was the highest-ranking 211 member, to another prison, according to the recording.
In their discussions with investigators, the informants at times angle for favors, such as whether law enforcement would be willing to allow them to serve out their sentences in another state or would be willing to help them gain early parole. Even when they don’t seek favors other motivations may exist. One informant said he had clashed with the 211 Crew and disliked the gang because it was extorting his commissary money.
For the gang, claiming responsibility for the killing of the prisons chief, whether true or not, would enhance its stature among other inmates it sought to recruit or intimidate.
Statements on two of the recently disclosed recordings provide new details suggesting links between the 211 Crew and Homaidan al-Turki, a Saudi serving up to life in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting his housekeeper.
Al-Turki previously has denied culpability in Clements’ killing, but the recordings reveal investigators considered him a person of interest in the killing in part because they suspected he was paying the 211 Crew for protection from other inmates and also had a motive for revenge against the corrections system.
The recordings show one informant said he had been told by a high-ranking 211 Crew member that al-Turki helped plot the attack with the 211 Crew. The informant said he had seen al-Turki and Lohr, when Lohr was in prison, often talking alone in the prison yard.
A week before he was killed, Clements rejected al-Turki’s request that he be allowed to serve out his sentence in Saudi Arabia — seen by some in law enforcement as a motive for revenge.
Other evidence collected in the case established that al-Turki had a sizable commissary account he could use as leverage in prison and had asked 211 Crew leaders for protection in the prison after he was severely beaten by members of the Gallant Knights Insane gang, two people with ties to the investigation confirmed.
Another informant said he would try to extract details from his extensive contacts with 211 Crew members. Law enforcement considered him a trustworthy informant who had helped break cases in the past. This informant focused heavily on 211 Crew member Guolee, stating that they communicated while in the El Paso County jail together after the murder of Clements. He said Guolee had indicated, without outright confessing, that he had complicity in the killing.
“I have to accept I’m probably going to prison for life over this stuff,” he recounted Guolee as telling him. He added Guolee also said he had to come to terms with his daughter and his mother because of what he had done.
“I made whatever choices I made and whatever is done is done,” he recounted Guolee as stating. “Those were his exact words.”
The informant claimed that Guolee also told him in another conversation that “he was going away for life due to information in a little black book or a little black notebook and for doing surveillance with Ebel and Lohr.”
Law enforcement searched for the black book but never found it.
This informant said another 211 Crew associate told him that Guolee helped plan the murder and conducted surveillance for Ebel. Guolee later would go on in 2016 to be convicted and sentenced to 28 years in prison for attempting to kill Colorado Springs police during a burglary of a former corrections official’s home.
The informant said his 211 Crew associate source also told him that Lohr told Ebel to do the murder and drove Ebel the night of the murder, and that another 211 Crew commander, Middleton, also had complicity in the planning and conducted surveillance, as did Guolee.
Phone records, f
The Texas Rangers also had Middleton on their radar as well as Lohr, based on the confidential informant’s statements there, and the cellphone records showing their continuous contacts with Ebel on the day of the murder and alleged discussions after the murder. A fingerprint from Middleton was found on the trunk of Ebel’s Cadillac getaway car, the Texas Rangers report shows.
Inside the trunk of that car was a hit list containing directions to the homes of several high-ranking Colorado corrections officials, including to the Monument home of Clements, two walkie-talkies and material to make pipe bombs.
Middleton told investigators that he and his wife saw Ebel hours before Clements was killed at a diner but denied complicity in the murder.
Middleton’s wife, Jacqueline, told investigators that Ebel called Middleton’s cellphone shortly after he killed Clements, asking for directions, but she denied that he said anything about the killing. She said her husband was sleeping so she answered Ebel’s call. She told the investigators that she was scared and thought Ebel might be coming to harm her. She recalled Ebel wanting directions to Fontaine Boulevard. She claimed she instead steered him toward Fountain Boulevard, away from the area where she lived.
Authorities say they believe Ebel was seeking directions to the next kill destination. The hit list investigators later found in the getaway car included directions to a home off Fontaine Boulevard. A person with the same name as a high-ranking corrections official lived in that home, but it was a case of mistaken identity, investigators believe.
One of the Colorado informants in one phone call to a corrections investigator, a recording of which was provided to The Gazette, began hurriedly, blurting out what he claimed he had learned from a 211 Crew associate about the murder of Clements.
“It was ordered from up top, OK?”
Contact Chris Osher: 303-257-2601 firstname.lastname@example.org