Foul Play

Friends of Colorado Shooting Suspect Evan Ebel Remember a Dark, Scary Kid

The man suspected of killing Colorado’s corrections chief and a pizza deliveryman had a sad, troubled life. Carol McKinley talks to Evan Ebel’s shocked friends.

Colorado Department of Corrections/AP

Many of the kids who grew up in the bubble of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, knew about Evan Spencer Ebel. And some of them were afraid of him. “Everyone said, ‘You don’t want to F with Evan.’ He wasn’t scared of anything or anybody,” said one young girl, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals from Ebel’s prison ties.

On Friday, the 28-year-old murder suspect and white supremacist was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds sustained in a shootout with police. Ebel was accused of shooting the chief of the Colorado Department of Corrections, as well as a pizza deliveryman.

Interviews with several of Ebel’s friends and acquaintances reveal a troubled young man from a caring family who spent much of his young life in prison, and even a stint in a boot camp in Samoa.

Jefferson County School spokeswoman Lynn Setzer confirmed that Ebel only went to high school for a month in 1999, from September 2nd to October 18th. Sources say that in elementary school he was in a Severely Impacted Special Education Program.

Ryan Arci, who ran around in some of the same circles with Ebel, remembers his as “as a dark kid, depressed. His walls in his room were black and his windows were blacked out.” Ebel’s friends say he had a tattoo across his back that said “Hopeless.” He sometimes signed his letters from jail, “Evil Evan.”

Ebel’s life ended on a Texas highway about 45 minutes outside of Dallas. He had taken law enforcement in Decatur, Texas, on a harrowing car chase that at times reached 100 miles per hour. Ebel eventually crashed into a semi, got out of the destroyed vehicle he had driven all the way from Colorado, and started shooting, eventually getting shot himself.

It was a grim finale to a bizarre crime spree that has had the state of Colorado on edge since Sunday night when a pizza delivery driver was killed, his body dumped in an open space. Only a pizza and the dead man’s uniform were taken. FBI sources say that an empty pizza box and Domino’s uniform were found in Ebel’s crunched car.

Ebel was also the focus of an investigation into the cold-blooded murder of Tom Clements, Colorado’s Chief of the Department of Corrections. Clements was gunned down at his front door at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Known as a progressive leader who cared about the mental health of his prisoners and worked to ensure their transition into society once released, no one could understand why anyone would want to kill him. “Tom Clements was someone who worked in a cold, dark world with a remarkably open and generous heart,” said an emotional Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper outside the the State Capitol Wednesday. Clements will be laid to rest Sunday.

Ebel himself was on life support overnight and declared dead in a Texas hospital early Friday. No one knows where he was headed in the black Cadillac which matches the description given by a half dozen of Clements’s neighbors. El Paso County Undersheriff Paula Presley said whoever murdered Clements may have left the car running and fled. There is speculation it might have been a hit ordered by a White Supremacist group Ebel may have joined in prison called the 211’s.

In Wheat Ridge, Evans’s former friends are going to work today in a state of shock. “I thought Evan had gotten his life together,” said childhood friend, Ricky Alengi. “He had just gotten out of prison, he was writing books. My walls are covered with pictures he drew. I talked to his mom. She is torn up.” Ebel’s sister, Marin, and Alengi were high school sweethearts, he says.

Marin’s tragic death in a car crash at the age of sixteen may have contributed to his anger, says Alengi. She was killed nine years ago, ironically, her friends say, when she was being pulled over by a police officer right outside of the junior high school where many of them had gotten to know one another.

Jack Ebel, Evan’s father, is a well-respected Denver oil and gas lawyer. He told his son’s friends that he was going to dedicate the rest of his life to helping Evan. Just two years ago, Jack Ebel testified in front of the Colorado State Legislature imploring lawmakers to consider other options for the mentally ill instead of solitary confinement. His son, he told them, would spend many hours in lock up by himself, and it severely affected him.

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"He'll rant a little bit. He'll stammer,” said Ebel. “He'll be frustrated that he can't find the words. And I let him get it out, and eventually, because I'm his father, he will talk to me. And I'm convinced, if any of the rest of you were to go talk to him, he wouldn't be able to talk to you."