DENVER — An emotional Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper reflected Wednesday on the death of state corrections chief Tom Clements, who was shot and killed at his home Tuesday night after he answered the door.
“We all stand here with leaden hearts and insufficient words,” said Mr. Hickenlooper at a press conference at the state Capitol. “Tom Clements dedicated his life to being a public servant, to making our state better, to making the world a better place, and he is going to be deeply, deeply missed.”
He described Mr. Clements as “a dedicated, committed, funny, caring expert at corrections” and “somebody who worked in what is oftentimes a cold, dark world with a remarkably open and generous heart.”
In an attack that stunned the state and sparked a massive manhunt, the 58-year-old Mr. Clements was shot at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. No suspect has yet been identified or detained in the shooting.
Authorities were searching for a dark, boxy, 1990s-era car that neighbors saw in front of that house about 15 minutes before the first 911 call at 8:47 p.m. The car was seen running but not occupied at the Clements home in the upscale neighborhood about 20 miles north of Colorado Springs.
“We are sensitive to the high-profile position in which Mr. Clements served and the fact there could be people who would target him based on his position,” said the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in a statement. “However, we remain open-minded to all investigative possibilities and continue to work all available clues and sources of information.”
Mr. Hickenlooper made his remarks at a press conference shortly after signing three highly controversial gun-control bills. The Democratic governor called the timing of the bill-signing and Mr. Clements‘ death “as far as we know, two completely unrelated subjects.”
“I think it’s a coincidence, but an incredibly tragic and sad coincidence that we have to process all this in a single day,” said Mr. Hickenlooper.
Still, the governor said he believed Mr. Clements would have wanted the signing ceremony to proceed as scheduled.
“He would have expected us to sign these bills and go forward today. That’s just the kind of man he was,” said Mr. Hickenlooper.
Mr. Clements was known as a prison reformer who emphasized preparing inmates to succeed upon reentering society. He spent 31 years as the second-in-command of the Missouri corrections system before being named executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2011.
“He first turned us down and was going to go to another state, and then upon reflection came to Colorado, and we are so grateful for the time that he gave us,” said Mr. Hickenlooper.
Mr. Clements is survived by his wife, Lisa, and two adult daughters.