Jefferson County plays defense
First Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir asked the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners for its support in improving security for his staff at a briefing last week.
“We’re in a dangerous business,” Weir said, adding the threat seemed real enough, and close enough that there was little time to waste.
He specifically cited the shooting death of Tom Clements, executive director of Colorado’s Department of Corrections, on March 19.
Weir called Clements a respected colleague and a close personal friend.
The suspect in that shooting was a parolee, Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, who was later killed in a car chase and gun fight with law enforcement in Texas.
“Mr. Ebel was prosecuted by my office. It was a Jefferson County Court that first put him away,” Weir said.
Ebel’s long rap sheet has its start in Lakewood in 2003 with armed robbery and felony menacing according to court records. His more recent crimes have a Jeffco connection as well. In a grassy field that offers a decent view of the Jefferson County Courthouse, just a five-minute drive away, Ebel is believed to have dumped his murder victim Nathan Collin Leon on March 17. Two days later, Ebel is also suspected of having shot and killed Clements at his Monument home.
Investigators are still looking into whether the killing of Clements was an ordered assassination, or if Ebel was acting alone. Ebel was on parole at the time of the killings, and had spent the last few years in the Colorado prison system, where he became associated with the violent 211 white supremacist gang.
The possible assassinations of a district attorney and an assistant district attorney in Texas have at least raised the possibility that prison gangs have chosen to target members of the justice system who helped put them behind bars, or help keep them there.
“The problem is these dangerous folks also have dangerous associates, who are not in custody,” Weir said.
Weir added that local law enforcement agencies have begun making extra patrols around the houses of some of staff residences.
Among Weir’s suggestions: Designated parking near a secure “County Employee’s Only” entrance, a secure shuttle bus service for DA staff, added video surveillance of the county courthouse grounds. Weir said a few other security ideas were being discussed with county staff, but would require time and money to be planned and implemented.
The county sheriff’s department, which is responsible for courthouse security, is aware of the situation and has taken some steps to improve security, department Public Information Officer Jacki Kelley said.
“They’re security measures, so we keep them pretty close to the vest,” Kelley said.