POSTED: 02:45 a.m. HST, Apr 05, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 07:56 a.m. HST, Apr 05, 2013
DENVER >> A white supremacist prison gang member was arrested but another was still being sought for questioning today in the death of Colorado's prisons chief as authorities investigated whether the gang had any ties to the killing.
James Lohr was taken into custody early today, El Paso County sheriff's spokesman Jeff Kramer said. Lohr was wanted for questioning in the slaying of Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements.
Authorities believe Lohr was in contact with gang associate Evan Ebel days before the killings of Clements and pizza delivery man Nate Leon. Police said they believe Ebel killed Leon and Clements in the days before he died in a shootout in Texas. The motive in the killings isn't clear.
Clements was shot to death March 19 in Monument, just north of Colorado Springs. Leon was killed two days earlier. His body was found in the Denver suburb of Golden.
KRDO-TV reported Colorado Springs police arrested Lohr after a short foot chase that started when police tried to stop a car.
Authorities issued an alert Wednesday asking other law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for Lohr and Thomas Guolee, both of Colorado Springs, who were identified as 211 Crew members. Ebel was a member of the same gang.
Lohr, 47, and Guolee, 31, are not being called suspects in Clements' death, but their names surfaced during the investigation, Kramer said. Both were wanted on warrants unrelated to the Clements investigation.
Kramer said earlier that it was possible one or both of them could be headed to Nevada or Texas.
Guolee's mother, Deborah Eck, told The Denver Post that Guolee called her husband a week and a half ago to ask for a ride to the police station so he could turn himself in for what she believed was a parole violation. But she said they never heard back from him.
Police came to her house Wednesday looking for Guolee.
"One cop said if he would have turned himself in for violation of probation, he probably wouldn't be in the situation he was now," she told the newspaper.
Lohr has been wanted in Las Animas County in southeastern Colorado. He was arrested for violating a protection order in Trinidad on Dec. 1, 2012, after police found that he'd been drinking with friends at a tattoo shop. According to court documents, drinking was a violation of a protective order against him, and he was arrested. Lohr then failed to appear in court in that case Feb. 20, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Lohr has a criminal record going back to 1992. In 1996, after he pleaded guilty to burglarizing a home, court records show he was ordered to have no contact with his estranged wife after she told police he repeatedly broke into her home and stole items to pawn.
In 2006, Lohr was charged with burglary with a weapon and assault causing serious bodily injury. Court records show those charged were dismissed because of a lack of evidence.
Court records show Guolee was arrested in 2001 after a member of the Crips gang told Colorado Springs police he was jumped by Guolee and another gang member because they believed he was a member of a rival gang. The witness told police Guolee and the other gang member punched and kicked him in the face and left him bleeding.
In 2007, Guolee was charged with assault and intimidating a witness while in the El Paso County jail after an inmate said he was assaulted by three men, including Guolee, because they thought he was going to testify against a suspect in another case. El Paso County authorities said the man was beaten so badly he could have been permanently disfigured.
The complete court records were not immediately available, so the outcome of some of those cases is not clear. Authorities have also not released the subject of the warrant out for Guolee.
On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a sweeping review of Colorado's prison and parole operations, as more evidence piled up showing how Ebel slipped through the cracks in the criminal justice system to become a suspect in Clements' death.
Ebel was released from prison four years early due to a clerical error and violated his parole terms five days before the prisons chief was killed.
Officials said the state will now audit inmates' legal cases to ensure they are serving the correct amount of time. They'll ask the National Institute of Corrections to review the state's parole system, which is struggling under large caseloads.
Colorado lawmakers also are considering spending nearly $500,000 to hire more parole officers because of what happened with Ebel.
Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas authorities after the Colorado deaths. Investigators have said the gun he used in the shootout also was used to kill Clements when the prisons chief answered the front door of his home.
Ebel has been the only suspect named in Clements' death. Investigators have said they're looking into his connection to the gang he joined while in prison, and whether that was linked to the attack.
"Investigators are looking at a lot of different possibilities," Kramer has said. "We are not stepping out and saying it's a hit or it's not a hit. We're looking at all possible motives."