Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLellan didn't mince words when he addressed reporters about the murder this morning of Mark Hasse, one of his prosecutors.
"I hope that the people that did this are watching, because we're very confident that we're going to find you, we're going to pull you out of whatever hole you're in, and we're gonna bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County [punish you] to the fullest extent of the law," McLellan said.
First, law enforcement officials have to figure out who they are. McLellan was joined on the steps of the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office by Sheriff David Byrnes and Kaufman police Chief Chris Aulbaugh, who said they're interviewing witnesses and investigating multiple leads.
For now, officials can't say for sure whether there was one gunman or two, the attacker(s) race, what the motive might have been or if Hasse was the intended target.
"We can't say we're confident that it was a hit," Aulbaugh said.
Pretty much all they know for sure is that the shooter was wearing black and that Hasse is dead.
A reporter asked if the murder might be related to a case Hasse had been working on, which prompted Byrnes to recoil from the microphone. "Nope," he said flatly. "I'm not responding to that."
Aulbaugh stepped in to say that his officers, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety; the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and a number of local agencies are following up every lead that comes in but can't say anything for certain.
Another reporter asked more pointedly about Hasse's involvement in the investigation of Aryan Brotherhood members Ben Christian Dillon, aka "Tuff," and James Marshall Meldrum, aka "Dirty," who pleaded guilty today on federal racketeering charges. Hours after the shooting, the Department of Justice issued a press release thanking the Kaufman County DA's office, along with about two dozen other agencies, for help on the case.
That fact was reported prominently by WFAA and the Morning News, but McLellan threw a bit of cold water on any speculation that Hasse's murder was tied to any work against the Aryan Brotherhood.
"All the prosecutors in our office, they will have dealings with different cases at one time or another. Right now as far as I know he didn't have any active cases" involving the Brotherhood, McLellan said.
Being a prosecutor -- and a damn good one -- Hasse had any number of people who might wish to do him harm, McLellan said.
"When you deal with bad people on a regular basis, you know there's the potential for some of these bad people to do something bad to you, because they've already done bad to someone else."
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McLellan likened the job to climbing light poles: "You might fall off. Most of the time you don't."
McLellan also offered a brief biographical sketch of Hasse, a veteran prosecutor who once plied his trade in Dallas County. He had just bought a house in Kaufman and was fixing it up. He was a great storyteller. He was a pilot who nearly died several years back when the World War II-era plane he was flying lost power crashed into the side of a mountain, crushing half his skull.
He was in a coma for something like 90 days and emerged without his sense of smell, the district attorney said.
"He had an absolute passion for putting away bad guys. He enjoyed nothing better."