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Texas officials chasing leads in prosecutor's shooting death

February 01, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

HOUSTON -- The Kaufman County Courthouse remained closed Friday as investigators continued their search for clues in the wake of a brazen fatal shooting of a prosecutor just outside the building a day earlier, officials said. 

During a Friday morning briefing, officials of North Texas law enforcement agencies said they were working through leads in the shooting death, which targeted the Dallas-area prosecutor as he headed to work Thursday.

Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said investigators had made no arrests in connection with the shooting of Kaufman County Asst. Dist. Atty. Mark Hasse, 57.

Hasse was shot at about 9 a.m. Thursday outside the courthouse about 33 miles southeast of Dallas.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes, appearing in his usual tan Stetson, said officials will continue an increased security presence at the courthouse "for some time until everybody kind of gets back to normal, whatever that is."

He said investigators believe that Hasse was the sole target of the attack and that "there’s no vendetta against the county."

The shooting came the same day U.S. Department of Justice officials publicly thanked Hasse for his help in prosecuting members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, but Aulbaugh said investigators have yet to link that case to the shooting.

"We're not ruling out any involvement until we know. We have no specific information that Aryan Brotherhood is a factor here," the police chief said during the briefing. "It seems to be coincidence that this release from DOJ had to do with that case."

He said Hasse had not worked any other recent cases involving the Aryan Brotherhood.

"We still have no direct tie to that," he said, but "it doesn’t rule out that someone he [Hasse] could have handled could have had involvement" in the shooting.

He said investigators were combing Hasse's cases for "any indication of hostility, threats" by those he had prosecuted, trying to follow up on leads before the case cools down. 

"It's just an urgency -- what people may have seen, evidence, the earlier we get on it, the better," he said. "We will not stop doing this until we have found who did this."

Aulbaugh said investigators were still analyzing ballistic evidence from the crime scene; he declined to say what type of gun was used.

He said Hasse did not seem to have been expecting an attack.

"We are always aware that there are risks in the work that we do," Aulbaugh said, but, "there was not an indication that he had a particular fear" on Thursday.

Witnesses have described two suspects who approached Hasse in the courthouse parking lot that morning as dressed in black, wearing masks and tactical vests. They reportedly fled in a brown or silver sedan, possibly a Ford Taurus, but Aulbaugh said there was no additional information available Friday.

"If we had a license plate, we would certainly put it out," he said, adding that the suspects' “facial features are not known at this time.”

The police chief said Hasse has family in the area, but he would not comment about whether they had been provided security.

"His family is being well taken care of," he said.

He said a Crimestoppers reward for information about the suspects, boosted by a match from the Dallas district attorney’s office Friday, had almost doubled since the day before to $64,500.

"We encourage anyone who may have seen something, call it in to our tip line -- we will follow every lead we receive," Aulbaugh said.

Kaufman County Criminal Dist. Atty. Mike McLelland said the courthouse, placed on lockdown after the shooting, is expected to reopen in a few days.

"This is new territory for everybody," he said.

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