The executive director of Colorado’s department of corrections, Tom Clements, was shot dead by an unknown gunman at his home on Tuesday night. The initial information was the doorbell had rung and when Mr. Clements answered the door he was shot. No one else in the house was injured. A call was received by the sheriff’s office at 8:37 p.m. local time Tuesday from a person in Clements’ home in the town of Monument. Deputies responded and confirmed that a deceased male, later identified as Clements, was on scene. The 58-year-old man was not transported to a hospital. Investigators had not identified a suspect as of Wednesday morning.

Clements was confirmed as the head of the state’s department of corrections in February 2011 in a unanimous vote of the state senate. He had previously worked as director of operations for adult correctional facilities in Missouri, and had over three decades of experience working in corrections.

I was saddened to hear this news account. No, I did not know this individual, in fact, I never met him, or had any prior knowledge of him. But, I had a bond with him because I also had almost 30 years in state corrections. This is an underlying part of the job…that you may be confronted someday, unexpectedly, by someone who has a grudge with you from the past, and this confrontation may become violent. You live with the threats that are made toward you, while performing your duties, and you go home and hope that they remain just that…threats. I am retired now for a little over a year and a half, and I will run into ex-inmates, on the streets all the time. Fortunately, they have always been friendly encounters and I have only had one ex-inmate ever come to my house. That incident probably would not have happened, if the ex-inmate had not been walking by and saw me doing yard work in my front yard. It still made me very nervous, because you do not know their intent.

The funny part was, we were talking, when a deputy-sheriff drove by and honked. The ex-inmate turned , looked at the deputy, and stated, “I hate that guy, he’s a prick!” The ex-inmate than asked me if I knew that deputy and I replied, truthfully, “Oh that’s just my brother-in-law.” The color drained from the ex-inmate’s face, he stammered, “I have to go” and he turned and walked away. I never saw him again.

Corrections is a tough job and it takes a very special person to do that job, day in and day out. The stress level is unbelievable, you face danger everyday, and you pray that you can go home, safe, at the end of your shift. I was physically attacked, from behind, by an inmate and my neck was fractured at the fifth vertebrae. Fortunately, my spinal cord was not damaged, but I have been forced to endure the pain for the last 25 years. The inmate that assaulted me was not even angry with me…he accepted a contract from another inmate, who was angry at me and wanted me hurt. The contract was for two packs of cigarettes.

So, my heart-felt sorrow goes out to his family and all I can add is, “he is in my prayers tonight.”

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