Texas prosecutor's killing has police on alert
They're seeking to better protect prosecutors and their staffs following the killing of county district attorney whose assistant was gunned down just months ago
By Nomaan Merchant and Nicholas Riccardi
KAUFMAN, Texas — Law enforcement officials throughout Texas remained on high alert Monday seeking to better protect prosecutors and their staffs following the killing of county district attorney whose assistant was gunned down just months ago.
On Saturday, Kaufman Country District Attorney McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death in their house. Authorities haven't said much about their investigation, including whether they have any leads or a theory about why the couple was killed.
But speculation abounds with some pointing to the possible involvement of white supremacists groups.
McLelland himself, in an Associated Press interview shortly after the slaying of Colorado's prison chief last month, raised the possibility that Tom Clemments had been gunned down by a white supremacist gang.
McLelland said his office had prosecuted several cases against racist gangs, who have a strong presence around Kaufman County, a mostly rural area dotted with subdivisions, with a population of about 104,000.
"We put some real dents in the Aryan Brotherhood around here in the past year," he said.
Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed in a parking lot near his courthouse office. No arrests have been made in Hasse's Jan. 31 killing.
McLelland said he carried a gun everywhere around town, a bedroom community for the Dallas area. He figured assassins were more likely to try to attack him outside. He said he had warned all his employees to be constantly on the alert.
"The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it," he said of dealing with the danger, "because they're going to need it more in the future."
The number of attacks on prosecutors, judges and senior law enforcement officers in the U.S. has spiked in the past three years, according to Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the Santa Clara County, California, district attorney's office who tracks such cases.
Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon said his staff has been cautioned, but he declined to discuss the specific security measures that have been taken. Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins declined to comment on the issue, citing safety concerns.
Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson said he accepted the Houston sheriff's offer of 24-hour security for him and his family after learning about the slayings, mostly over concerns for his family's safety. Anderson said he also would take precautions at his office, the largest one in Texas, which has more than 270 prosecutors.
"I think district attorneys across Texas are still in a state of shock," Anderson said Sunday.
Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said little at a brief news conference Sunday about the McLelland investigation, and he deflected questions about possible suspects. He said security would be stepped up at the courthouse in Kaufman, but he declined to say what other steps might be taken to protect the other prosecutors in McLelland's office.
McLelland, 63, is the 13th prosecutor killed in the U.S. since the National Association of District Attorneys began keeping count in the 1960s.
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