Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nothing hit harder

Rare insight into local, state and national news narrative

By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, and what you think of local, state and national politics, we’ve had some interesting times here in Colorado in the last few years.

Having just finished Governor John Hickenlooper’s recent book, “The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics,” I was reminded of our area’s impact on that narrative, and its role in the overall Colorado picture of late.

Nothing hit me harder than the Governor’s description of local events in March 2013.

From the book about the night of March 20, 2013:

“Over the course of the next twelve hours or so we learned that sometime around 8:30 p.m. the doorbell rang at the Clements’ home in the town of Monument. Tom answered it, and a guy in a pizza delivery uniform fatally shot him in the chest. Within minutes, Lisa called the police. Deputies arrived and found Tom and Lisa inside the home on set of stairs. Medical crews performed CPR on Tom. He died on the scene, in his home, in front of Lisa. Tom was fifty-eight years old, and left behind his “three girls:” Lisa, and their daughters Rachel and Sara.”

The Governor describes learning more in a police briefing later.

“I learned that sheriff’s deputy in Montague County, Texas, pulled over the suspect on a routine stop, unaware of the search in Colorado. The suspect shot Deputy James Boyd and then fled. Boyd. who was wearing a protective vest, radioed to report the direction the car was heading. After a chase during which speeds reached up to 100 miles an hour, and eighteen wheeler smashed into the suspect’s car, which caught fire, the suspect jumped out and shot at officers. They returned fire and killed him,” wrote Hickenlooper.

“I was told the casing from the suspect’s 9mm Smith & Wesson were the same brand and caliber as those used by the gunman who’d killed Tom. Law enforcement was confident that the suspect had killed Nathan Leon, whose side job was delivering pizzas for Domino’s, then taken his uniform and his black 1991 Cadillac, dumped Leon’s body, driven to Tom’s home, killed him, and then made his way to Texas.”

The Governor said he received the briefing in his office with the officer moving through a lot of slides of the crash, shootout in Texas, a mug shot of the suspect, Domino’s uniform …

“Wait,” he said. “I interrupted because I thought I saw the word ‘Ebel’ at the bottom of the previous screen of the mug shot, and there he was. It was the son of my longtime friend Jack Ebel. I had a wave of nausea.”

Hickenlooper said the tragedy was made worse, by finding out that the Colorado Department of Corrections mistakenly released Evan Ebel before he had completed his full sentence. While he had been serving an eight-year prison term, he pleaded guilty to punching a guard in November of 2006, and was to serve a consecutive prison term of an additional four years. The reason for the release, according to DOC, was judicial “clerical error.” The way the forms in the file were written, it was not clear that his sentences were to be consecutive.

I had quite a bit of media interaction with the Governor when I worked at Colorado Press Association in Denver, and would sometimes see him before that, in his role prior as mayor of Denver, and when he first ran for governor. Having covered Tom Clements murder personally, added a new dimension. Hickenlooper’s book offered additional insight into other local events from the perspective of the top job in the state, such as Waldo Canyon Fire, Black Forest Fire, and even recent events marking ultimate sacrifice of state troopers Cody Donahue and Jaimie Jursevics. That perspective, took on new meaning, and offered rare insight of our local area’s impact.

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