Elder holds court with media


Sheriff Bill Elder - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • Sheriff Bill Elder
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder hosted a pizza lunch with the media Monday and discussed topics ranging from staffing to the murder investigation of Tom Clements.

Asked about the "Fight Club" investigation in the Criminal Justice Center, Elder said a internal affairs probe is underway of a situation he disputed as similar to the movie of that name. He said more interviews are being conducted before the investigation concludes in two to three weeks. He said he won't make the entire IA report public, but something will be released.

Sources have described a game inside the jail in which detention deputies kept score of how many inmates they could brutalize and get away with it. One former deputy told the Independent he reported what he viewed as "a lot of deputies' use of force" but his concerns were dismissed.

"A lot of deputies are there who just want to go to that next step and fight somebody," the source said.

As for the Clements murder investigation, Elder said it's still active in coordination with more than a dozen agencies, including the FBI, CBI, ATF and Denver Police Department, but that the investigation has unearthed "no evidence that anyone other than Evan Ebel was involved in the homicide."

Clements, Colorado Department of Corrections director, was shot dead March 19, 2013, at his front door in Black Forest by Ebel, who had days before been released from prison. Ebel was believed to be part of the 211 Crew, a prison gang.

Elder told other law enforcement officials earlier this year he was preparing to close the investigation, but Gov. John Hickenlooper intervened, and the case remains open.

Elder told media Monday to be mindful that every time a story appears regarding the case, "It's like tearing off a scab" to the family. Clements left a wife and two daughters.

Pressed by a Denver Post reporter, Elder insisted, "There's no evidence that anyone but Evan Ebel killed Tom Clements."

Theories abound about who might have helped Ebel kill Clements and about a so-called hit list found in Ebel's car after he was killed in a shootout with authorities in Texas two days after the Clements murder. The Post previously reported:
• A federal official who had no dealings with Ebel said he was named on a hit list found in Ebel’s black Cadillac DeVille two days after Clements was killed on March 19, 2013.

• Another government official said Ebel’s hit list contained the names of more than 20 officials — far higher than previously known.

• That same source said one official on the hit list is concerned about the lack of information coming from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, the lead investigative agency in the Clements case.

On other topics, Elder said he's starting to meet with other officials about whether to seek voter approval to renew the sheriff's tax, which was approved by voters in 2012 to last eight years. Those discussions include steps the department could take to "wean us off" the total of at least $17 million a year raised by the tax.

Elder said of the 195 people hired in 2013 and 2014 with that tax money, 28 percent left for a variety of reasons, including the family moved away, they left law enforcement for other lines of work, or they took higher-paying law enforcement jobs elsewhere.

He said he's devised new practices he hopes will reduce attrition, including better training supervision and increasing pay for jailers.

Elder also noted that while law enforcement agencies across the country average about 14 percent women, his department is comprised of 21 percent women.

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