Colorado Springs police arrested a second member of a violent prison gang Friday morning. They want to talk with him about Evan Ebel, the man suspected of murdering Colorado Corrections Director Tom Clements last month. The case is raising new questions about extremist organizations in Colorado prisons, and how officials handle them.
[Photo credit: State of Colorado]
[The following is a transcript of Megan's report]
Reporter Megan Verlee: When recent parolee Evan Ebel died in a shootout with Texas authorities just days after Clements’ murder, the gun in his hand was the same one that killed the prisons director. Ebel had just emerged from eight years behind bars, where he’d reportedly joined the 211 Crew: a violent whites-only gang that’s flourished in Colorado correctional facilities for more than a decade. The question investigators are now struggling to answer: was this the solitary act of a single angry parolee, or an incredibly audacious assassination?
Mark Pitcavage: "The incident that happened in Colorado is unprecedented."
Reporter: Mark Pitcavage researches extremist prison gangs for the Anti-Defamation League. He and other gang experts say it’s highly unlikely the 211 Crew ordered a hit on such a high-profile figure as Clements.
Pitcavage: "It would not be typical of racist prison gangs. On the other hand, racist prison gangs are capable of doing that sort of thing, even if they’re not necessarily inclined to do it."
Reporter: The 211 Crew was founded in 1995. Reportedly a couple of white inmates made up the gang, trying to convince other offenders to leave them alone. But their fantasy quickly became reality. While it’s been called a white supremacist organization, those familiar with the 211 Crew say ideology is only an afterthought. Denver defense attorney David Lane has represented gang members and says the group’s goal is to make its members lives more comfortable in prison. A hit on Clements would have the opposite effect.
David Lane: "Because the amount of wrath that will pour down on their heads within the walls is so extreme. For a bunch of guys who simply want to run their rackets and be left alone, this is prodding the tiger."
Reporter: That tiger, the Colorado Corrections System, is facing a lot of scrutiny right now about how it manages the 211 Crew and other prison gangs. DOC spokesperson Allison Morgan says inmates don’t get in trouble just for belonging to gangs.
Allison Morgan: "It is unrealistic, with 20-thousand offenders, with 20 facilities, to try to look at a zero tolerance to affiliation. So what we have to look at, and to enforce, a zero tolerance to safety and security."
Reporter: She says that means putting gang leaders in solitary confinement for ordering assaults or aggressively recruiting new members. DOC officials won’t talk specifically about the 211 Crew, but gang intelligence officers Eva Little and Roseanna Jordan say law enforcement does try to keep close tabs on all gang members, at all times.
Lt. Eva Little: “We’re not only focused on what’s happening inside the prison, because we...”
Cap't Roseanna Jordan: “We have Department of Correction employees who are parole officers that actually manage these offenders outside, they supervise them. We do talk to local law enforcement, as well as state agencies.”
Reporter: Still, Evan Ebel was able to break out of his monitoring bracelet and go missing for almost a week before Tom Clements’ killing. In recent days, the Department of Corrections has announced changes to more closely monitor ex-convicts and is in the process of adding 40 new parole officers. So while the investigation continues into any link between the 211 Crew and Clements’ murder, authorities are also vowing to just put more eyes on all former prisoners.
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