It’s been two months since Evan Ebel’s interstate trail of blood ended in gunfire in Decatur.
Ebel, 28, died from gunshot wounds sustained in the firefight that occurred in the shadow of the Wise County Sheriff’s office. Several alleged co-conspirators have since been arrested in connection with Ebel’s murders of pizza delivery man Nathan Leon near Denver, Colo., and state corrections chief Tom Clements in Monument, Colo.
But to this day, investigators still don’t know why Ebel, a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211s, was in Texas.
“I don’t think we ever came down to a definitive answer,” Wise County Sheriff David Walker said. “We believe he was coming down here to hide with some friends in the East Texas area. But we don’t have a positive idea, and it’s still up in the air.
“Some people wonder if he was going to Mexico to hide. We don’t think so. You’re not going to get into Mexico with a pistol in your car – and definitely not with two pipe bombs in the trunk.”
There also remains the question of whether anybody in Texas was on Ebel’s hit list. Clements allegedly was, but investigators have found no evidence of any more.
But Ebel was also carrying the components to create multiple powerful pipe bombs.
“He had everything in the back of that car that he needed,” Walker said. “He had the pipes, the powder and remote detonators. Talking with some ATF agents, he could have caused serious damage to property and maybe level a building and injure or kill a lot of people.
“Were those pipe bombs he had meant for somebody in Texas?” Walker said. “That’s something we might never know. That’s always going to be an unanswered question unless somebody up in Colorado finds out what he intended to do with those pipe bombs.”
He also had a shovel and a bag of lime in the trunk of the Cadillac he was driving – items needed if someone was trying to dispose of a body.
Earlier this week, the Montague County Sheriff’s Office released the dash camera video of the traffic stop in which Montague County Sheriff’s Deputy James Boyd was shot. Boyd pulled Ebel over near Bowie, but as soon as he approached the passenger’s side window, Ebel unloaded four shots in an instant. Three of them hit Boyd – two striking his protective vest and one that creased his head, but he was still able to call in a description of Ebel’s vehicle.
That call resulted in the chase that ended in Decatur. Miraculously, Boyd is making a full recovery.
Wise County Sheriff’s Office investigators have helped trace some of Ebel’s steps.
Investigator Luke Campbell analyzed data on an MP3 player and a cell phone possessed by Ebel. He found a short deleted message spoken in some type of code on the MP3 player.
“It didn’t mean much to use but it might prove helpful to investigators in Colorado,” Walker said.
Campbell also managed to retrieve information from Ebel’s cell phone that allowed him to draw a map of Ebel’s travels. Using software at the Sheriff’s Office and working with the phone company, Campbell was able to find out where he turned the phone on, where he turned it off, what he deleted from it and what websites or other things he might have looked at with it. He traced a map leading from Colorado Springs down to New Mexico, back to Colorado and finally to his fateful encounter with Wise County Sheriff’s deputies.
Colorado authorities have since arrested Stevie Marie Anne Vigil, 22, of Centennial, for allegedly buying the 9mm handgun Ebel used to murder Leon and Clements and shoot Boyd. Ebel also used the gun to shoot at numerous law enforcement officers in Wise County. During his mobile shooting spree he hit two Wise County sheriff’s vehicles and one Decatur police unit.
The chase and final shootout ended when Ebel crashed into the side of a rock hauler at the intersection of West U.S. 380 Business and U.S. 380.
“Most people that got hit by a rock truck that hard would still be lying up there,” Walker said. “When the truck hit him and his vehicle spun around, he was out within seconds firing rounds at our officers.
“Our officers did a great job. They acted just like they’ve been trained. In my opinion, everybody did a fantastic job. Not just our department, but everybody involved. I’m proud of the guys and the girls.”
“When Ebel engaged them in fire, it happened like that. The deputies jumped out, used their cars for cover and returned fire. That’s why we train, train, train. You do it over and over, and it’s like tying your shoes. But the trick is it’s never going to be the same way twice. That’s why we train in so many different scenarios.
“He had no regard for human life: his, ours or the public. We’re very lucky when he pulled off 287 he didn’t pull into Wal-Mart or somewhere like that and get into a shootout around people. We kind of joke now that he probably didn’t know the Sheriff’s Office was there or he wouldn’t have pulled in there.”
Wise County Sheriff’s Office can’t release the dash cam videos of their vehicles until the case goes before a grand jury here – standard procedure in any shooting incident involving an officer. It is being investigated by a Texas Ranger but will most certainly be no-billed by the grand jury.
While the case is all but put to rest in Texas, Colorado authorities continue to work to piece together Ebel’s violent story.
“It’s still a fluid case for them in Colorado,” Walker said.
And they may never know what Ebel was planning to do with the bomb-making materials he carried into Texas.