Anonymous sources who linked a “specific suspect” to the shooting death of Colorado’s prison chief undermined an active investigation and may have jeopardized any future prosecution, the sheriff’s office said Thursday night in a statement.
The Denver Post reported Thursday afternoon that Evan Spencer Ebel, a paroled prison inmate, is the man who was involved in a chase and shootout in Texas earlier in the day. A federal law enforcement official confirmed that identity to the Associated Press.
Investigators from Colorado were headed to Texas to look into whether Ebel is responsible for the slaying of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, as well as a pizza deliveryman in Denver on Sunday.
The Denver Post cited state and federal authorities who spoke on the condition of anonymity when it identified Ebel, who is “legally deceased” but on life support.
“It is disappointing that any law enforcement official would speak under a clause of anonymity and reveal a suspect and describe a link which has not been investigated fully,” the sheriff’s office said. “Doing so undermines an active investigation and can have a negative impact on any future prosecution. Cases are not tried in the courtroom on the basis of assumptions, but rather require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt which links a suspect to the crime. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has been and will continue to be the lead agency in this investigation; as such, any information released by our Office can be depended upon as accurate and reliable.”
The sheriff’s office has been in contact with Texas authorities since they were involved in the pursuit and officer-involved shooting, according to the statement.
“We began a high level of information exchange and have since sent some of our investigators to Texas to meet with the authorities there and get a better sense on whether or not the suspect from Texas is linked to the Clements shooting,” the statement states.
“The process our investigators will engage in will be multi-faceted and likely involve the inspection of any items of evidence in Texas which may be relevant to our case. These efforts take time and could involve the need for analysis from a crime laboratory before any confirmation of a link could be described. We will be diligent in releasing information which does not jeopardize the investigation as soon as it becomes available.”