Prosecutor Shot to Death in a Town Near Dallas
By LAUREN D’AVOLIO and MANNY FERNANDEZ
KAUFMAN, Tex. — A county prosecutor in this small town southeast of Dallas was fatally shot on Thursday morning near the courthouse by one or perhaps two gunmen, whom witnesses described as wearing masks, black clothing and tactical-style vests, the authorities said.
The prosecutor, Mark E. Hasse, worked in the Kaufman County district attorney’s office in Kaufman, a town of 6,800 people about 35 miles from Dallas. He was shot several times shortly before 9 a.m. as he walked in an employee parking lot about a block from the courthouse.
The authorities said the suspect or suspects got out of a Ford Taurus, opened fire on Mr. Hasse and then returned to the car and drove away. Investigators were trying to determine why Mr. Hasse was targeted and if the shooting had anything to do with cases he had prosecuted.
“I’ve been doing this 43 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said David A. Byrnes, the Kaufman County sheriff.
Mr. Hasse, 57, was the county’s lead felony prosecutor and a well-respected assistant district attorney. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and in the 1980s served as a prosecutor in the Dallas County district attorney’s office, where he had been the chief of the organized-crime section.
Kaufman County prosecutors have been involved in investigations of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas prison gang. In November, federal officials in Houston thanked a number of local agencies for their work — including Kaufman County prosecutors — when more than 30 senior leaders and other members of the gang were indicted on federal racketeering charges.
Officials said they were reviewing Mr. Hasse’s current cases — as many as 400 of them — and previous ones for leads.
Lawyers and prosecutors throughout North Texas were stunned by the attack. The Dallas County district attorney, Craig Watkins, sent an e-mail encouraging his employees to exercise caution.
“There’s a lot of shock,” said David Finn, a criminal defense lawyer in Dallas and former federal prosecutor who knew Mr. Hasse. “Where this happened, it’s not New York City or Dallas or L.A. or Chicago. This is a very, very, very small community, and for this to happen out there, it’s a huge deal. It’s incredibly brazen.”
The Kaufman County district attorney, Mike McLelland, said his office had suffered a devastating loss. “Mark was an excellent friend and a spectacular prosecutor,” he said.
After the shooting, the Kaufman County Courthouse went into lockdown and then was closed as officers and agents from local, state and federal agencies searched the streets nearby.
Area schools, including the campuses of the Kaufman Independent School District, were also placed on lockdown.
Lauren D’Avolio reported from Kaufman, and Manny Fernandez from Houston. Clifford Krauss contributed reporting from Houston.