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Mystery shrouds fatal shooting of Dallas-area prosecutor

January 31, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Authorities at the scene where a prosecutor was shot to death in downtown Kaufman, Texas.
Authorities at the scene where a prosecutor was shot to death in downtown… (David Woo / Dallas Morning…)

Was it one gunman or two? Was it a targeted hit, or something less calculated?

The fatal shooting of a Texas prosecutor outside a courthouse Thursday triggered a manhunt for the person or persons responsible for what Kaufman County officials called an unprecedented killing.

"I've been doing this for 40-something years, and I’ve never experienced something like this," Kaufman County Sheriff David Burns said at a televised news conference.

Mark Hasse -- an unmarried 57-year-old assistant district attorney for the Kaufman County prosecutor's office -- was shot multiple times, Kaufman County sheriff's office spokeswoman Pat Laney told the Los Angeles Times.

Hasse was on his way to his office and had gotten out of his car when someone approached him and a brief argument broke out, Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said at the news conference.

Some witnesses reported seeing one person, others two. The shooter was thought to be wearing black, but Aulbaugh didn't have further details.

Aulbaugh said that Hasse probably was targeted but that officials couldn't be certain.

Hasse, like other prosecutors in the office, would be handling nearly 400 cases at a time, and it would be tough to determine a likely suspect from all the cases he'd prosecuted, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLellan said at the news conference.

"It’s simply the nature of the beast," he said. "When you deal with bad people on a regular basis, you know there’s a potential for bad people to do something bad to you, because they’ve done something bad to someone else.”

When asked how it would feel to walk across the same parking lot where his district attorney had been slain, McLellan said it would be "different," then paused at the microphones a moment before continuing.

"Humbling, and very unhappy," McLellan said. "But we’ll still make the walk. And we’ll still show up. And we’ll still send bad guys out of Kaufman County every chance we get. We’re not stopping. We’re not slowing down.”

Officials announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and were working with federal investigative agencies.

McLelland described Hasse as a jokester and the office's premier storyteller; he had recently bought a house in the Kaufman area and was preparing to fix it up. "He had an absolute passion for putting away bad guys, and he liked nothing better," McLelland said.

The shooting came the same day that the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang had pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in federal court. The department  credited Kaufman County prosecutors for assisting with the case.

The Dallas Morning News, citing unidentified officials with knowledge of Hasse's caseload, reported that he was "heavily involved" with the prosecution, and that officials were looking into his work for clues.

In the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas case, Ben Christian Dillon, aka “Tuff,” 40, of Houston, and James Marshall Meldrum, aka “Dirty,” 40, of Dallas, pleaded guilty in a Southern District of Texas court on Thursday. Each faces a maximum of life in prison.

"According to court documents, Dillon, Meldrum and other ABT [Aryan Brotherhood of Texas] gang members and associates agreed to commit multiple acts of murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping and narcotics trafficking on behalf of the ABT gang," the Justice Department said in its release.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston contributed to this report.

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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