By P. SOLOMON BANDA
This undated image provided by the Colorado Department of Corrections shows its director Tom Clements. Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Kramer says Clements was shot to death around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night March 19, 2013 when he answered his front door in Monument, north of Colorado Springs. Police are searching for the shooter. (AP Photo/Colorado Department of Corrections)
MONUMENT, Colo. (AP) — The executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections was shot and killed when he answered the front door of his house, and police are searching for the gunman and trying to figure out if it had anything to do with his position.
Tom Clements was shot around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Monument, north of Colorado Springs, said Lt. Jeff Kramer, of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
Kramer said investigators have not ruled anything out, but it could have been related to his job.
“As the director of the Department of Corrections or any similar type position, it could in fact open someone up to be a target of a crime such as this. Although we remain sensitive to that, we also want to make sure that we remain open-minded to other possibilities as well,” Kramer said.
A family member called 911 to report the shooting and officers found Clements, 58, dead. Search dogs have been called in to comb through a wooded area around Clements’ home, and authorities were going house to house trying to find out what neighbors heard and saw.
Clements lived in a wooded neighborhood of large, two-story houses on expansive 2-acre lots dotted with evergreen trees in an area known as the Black Forest. Long driveways connect the homes to narrow, winding roads that thread the hills. Clements’ home was out of view, behind a barricaded of crime-scene tape in the road.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Clements to the post in 2011 after he served for more than three decades in the Missouri Department of Corrections. He replaced Ari Zavaras, a former Denver police chief who led the department under two governors. The department operates 20 adult prisons and a juvenile detainment system.
After Clements was appointed, Hickenlooper praised Clements for his approach to incarceration, saying Clements relied on proven methods to improve prison safety inside and programs that have been shown to improve successful outcomes after offenders are released from prison.
In a statement released early Wednesday and sent to department employees, Hickenlooper said he was in disbelief over the killing.
“As your executive director, he helped change and improve (the department) in two years more than most people could do in eight years. He was unfailingly kind and thoughtful, and sought the ‘good’ in any situation. I am so sad. I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can’t imagine our team without him,” Hickenlooper said.
While Clements generally kept a low profile, his killing comes a week after Clements denied a Saudi national prisoner’s request to be sent to his home country to serve out his sentence. Homaidan al-Turki was convicted of sexually assaulting a housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave. Clements said state law requires sex offenders to undergo treatment while in prison and that al-Turki had declined to participate.
The governor said he’s awaiting further details on the killing but called a news conference for Wednesday morning.
Hickenlooper ordered flags lowered to half-staff at public buildings until the day after Clements’ funeral. Arrangements are pending.
Clements is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two daughters, Rachel and Sara. Hickenlooper asked the public to respect their privacy.
Clements worked for 31 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, both in prisons as well as probation and parole services. He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri.
Government leaders in Missouri are mourning the loss. Clements was the former director of Adult Institutions for the Missouri Corrections Department and had been with the Missouri department since 1979.
George Lombardi, director of Missouri’s Department of Corrections, said Clements was “just a very good, decent person.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in an emailed statement that Clements “dedicated his professional life and his considerable skills to public service and protection, and the citizens of Missouri join the people of Colorado in mourning this tremendous loss.”
Associated Press writer Steven K. Paulson in Denver and Maria Sudekum in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.