By William M. Welch and Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Authorities are investigating whether a gunman now brain dead after a highway chase and shootout in Texas on Thursday is connected to the slayings of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements and a pizza delivery driver.
Before the movie-like pursuit, the suspect, driving a black Cadillac with Colorado license plates, wounded a deputy during a traffic stop in another Texas county.
Wise County Sheriff David Walker said at a late-afternoon news conference that the suspect was on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth and was "basically legally deceased" from a head wound. Machines were sustaining his body for possible organ harvesting.
Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins told the Wise County Messenger that the suspect was a white man in his 30s who was not carrying identification. Authorities were taking fingerprints to attempt to identify him.
Citing federal and state authorities, the Denver Post identified the gunman as Evan Spencer Ebel, a 28-year-old parolee from the Denver area who belonged to a white supremacist prison gang.
Ebel was convicted of robbery, menacing and weapons charges. In 2006, he assaulted a prison guard, the Post said.
KUSA-TV reported that that the gun used in Thursday's shootout was the same caliber used to kill Clements and Nathan Leon, a pizza delivery driver slain last week in Golden, Colo. Authorities found a Domino's pizza box and jacket inside the suspect's black Cadillac, said the Denver station, which is owned by Gannett, USA TODAY's parent company.
Hoskins said the suspect had fired 20 to 30 rounds from an automatic or semiautomatic weapon.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson in Washington said the agency is "looking into that possibility'' that the man may be linked to Clements' murder.
The 58-year-old Clements, the executive director of the Department of Corrections, was shot about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday as he answered the door of his home in Monument, north of Colorado Springs.
Authorities had alerted the police and the public to be on the lookout for a boxy, dark Cadillac or Lincoln.
Thursday's chase started in Montague County, Texas, about 11 a.m. CT. After a sheriff's deputy pulled over the Cadillac for a traffic violation on U.S. 287 in Bowie, the driver shot the deputy, hitting him twice in the chest and once in an ear, police said. The suspect then fled toward Fort Worth, about 70 miles south.
The deputy, 27-year-old James Boyd, was wearing a protective vest, which authorities said probably saved his life. He was reported in stable condition at a Fort Worth hospital.
Here's how the Wise County Messenger described the Hollywood-like scene:
"With a long trail of patrol vehicles, the southbound Cadillac blazed into Decatur on U.S. 287 at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or faster. He swerved in and out of local traffic. At times he pointed his gun out the window and fired at law enforcement officers. White smoke poured from the back of the Cadillac as dozens of blue and red lights raced in pursuit."
In Decatur, at the intersection of U.S. 380, the driver ran a red light and crashed into a truck hauling rocks, igniting a fire.
The suspect "exited the vehicle and engaged our deputies in a gunfight, at which time we returned fire," said Walker, the Wise County sheriff.
Chief Hoskins said the suspect "shot at me at least four times. It looks like he hit my front tire."
The gunman also fired at Sheriff's Patrol Lt. Art Ferguson during the pursuit. Bullets pierced his front window, just missing his head.
"We think he was going to head east of U.S. 380, but he crashed into an 18-wheeler," Hoskins said. "At that time he leaped out of his vehicle and opened fire on deputies. They returned fire, and the suspect hit the ground."