A Texas prosecutor who was heavily involved in the investigation of members of the Aryan Brotherhood was shot dead on Thursday morning as he walked from his car to his county courtroom office.
Officials identified the victim as Kaufman County assistant district attorney Mark Hasse. The 57-year-old was assaulted and shot multiple times by at least one gunman, police said.
The apparent assassination took place at around 8:50 a.m. in a parking lot near the courthouse where Hasse worked as a felony prosecutor who headed murder and drug cases.
Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said he had never seen such a case in his four decade career.
‘I’ve been doing this 43 years and I have never experienced anything like this before,’ he told reporters at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Hasse was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries. He was unmarried and had no children.
Witnesses told police they saw two suspects flee the scene in an older, silver Ford Taurus. However, the number of suspects had not been verified.
Kaufman Chief of Police Chris Aulbaugh said the shooting appeared to be targeted at Hasse for a number of reasons. ‘The fact it was not an ongoing rampage, it was one individual being shot and then (the gunmen) leaving the scene,’ he said. ‘It was a very small, very short confrontation.’
The suspects were of unknown race but were reportedly wearing all black, with one or both of them wearing a tactical-type vest. Some reports claim they were wearing masks.
widespread manhunt is underway for the culprits with the help of police and sheriff’s departments from across the county. ‘Every police department in the county is involved,’ county spokesman Pat Laney said.
No arrests have been announced but the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office reportedly told the Dallas News that a suspect had been arrested in the case.
‘I can’t overstep the bounds of Kaufman County,’ the news website quoted DA Craig Watkins as saying on Thursday afternoon. ‘All I can tell you is that there was an arrest.’
The initial $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunmen has been doubled to $20,000 after a local business offered to match the cash offered by Kaufman County Crimestoppers.
Investigators are searching through Hasse‘s case files, trying to identify any potential enemies he may have had, including any members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang.
The Dallas News reported that Hasse had been heavily involved in the investigation of members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Shortly after the prosecutor was shot and killed, the Department of Justice put out a statement crediting the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office with helping in the investigation of two known members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang.
The gang members pleaded guilty today to racketeering charges, after Hasse’s shooting.
The release states that Ben Christian Dillon, aka ‘Tuff’, of Houston, and James Marshall Meldrum, aka ‘Dirty’ both ‘agreed to commit multiple acts of murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping and narcotics tracking’ for the Aryan Brotherhood.
Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland said in an afternoon news conference that the county had suffered a ‘devastating loss’ today. However, he said Hasse had been fully aware of the dangers of his job and ‘accepted them readily’.
‘When you deal with bad people on a regular basis, you know there’s the potential for these bad people to do something bad to you because they have done bad things to other people,’ he told reporters.
Though he said Hasse didn’t have any active cases dealing with the Aryan Brotherhood.
McLelland said his team of 13 prosecutors were mourning the shock death of their colleague. ‘(We’re) a family not just an office,’ he said. ‘And trust me the entire office took this very, very badly.
‘Mark was an absolutely stellar prosecutor and good friend.’
The DA appealed to anyone who had any information to come forward. ‘Anything you folks can do to help us get our hands on this scum would be appreciated,’ he said.
Sheriff Byrnes said the courthouse had surveillance cameras but they were directed at the buildings not the parking lot so didn’t capture the shooting or the suspects as they made their getaway.
He said his office was beefing up security for Hasse’s colleagues.
‘We will have a uniformed officer in the parking lot for the foreseeable future ,’ he said.
McLelland added that the walk to the courthouse would be ‘humbling… unhappy’ now his friend was gone.