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Tom Clements remembered as a visionary corrections leader

Hundreds of people packed New Life Church in Colorado Springs Monday to remember the state corrections chief gunned down in his own doorway nearly a week ago.

Tom Clements’ widow, Lisa, told the mourners the life she and her two daughters had would never be the same. But she emphasized that life for suspected killer Evan Ebel’s family had also taken an irreversible turn.

“Last Tuesday, Tom and I were watching TV when the doorbell rang and my life is forever changed,” she said. “In the end, we want everyone who hears Tom’s story to know that he lived his life believing in redemption and the ability of the human heart to be changed. He would want justice, certainly, but moreover, he would want forgiveness.”

The family and close friends held a private funeral Sunday night in Colorado, but needed more space for the public event.

Clements was remembered also by his colleagues at corrections and by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“Tom Clements was a remarkable person,” Hickenlooper said. “He oversaw one of the coldest, darkest of worlds with the warmest and most tender of hearts.”

Hickenlooper told the audience at Monday’s memorial it took a lot of time to convince Clements to move from his home state of Missouri, where he had spent more than 30 years working in corrections.

“He believed Colorado could be a model for the whole nation,” he said.

The reforms Clements was famous for may prove to be a motive for his shooting death last week. Sources told sister station KRDO Monday that Clements had disbursed the 211 Crew, a white supremacist prison gang to which Ebel is widely believed to have been a member, to separate prisons shortly after taking over as corrections chief.

Also on Monday, ballistics testing found that the shell casings, gun and bullets at the scene of Ebel’s Thursday crash and shootout near Fort Worth, Texas were a match for the shell casings found at the scene of Clements’ murder Tuesday. Clements was shot in the doorway of his Monument, Colo. home.

Ebel was also a suspect in the shooting death of a pizza delivery driver. The pizza box and branded jacket were found in his car after the crash and shootout with deputies that left him brain-dead before he died in Texas Friday.

El Paso County sheriff’s investigators have said the case remained open.

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