Police chief: No sign of fear from slain attorney
KAUFMAN, Texas (AP) — Authorities don't know whether a Texas prosecutor who had extensive experience with organized crime feared for his life before he was fatally shot, but they're poring through the cases he handled for leads to his killer, officials said Friday.
No arrests have been made since Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down Thursday morning in a parking lot about a block from his office at the Kaufman County Courthouse. Authorities are searching for one or two suspects. Witnesses have said the killer was dressed in black with facial features covered.
Kaufman police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said there's no indication that Hasse, 57, had been afraid he might be killed and, although the prosecutor was a licensed peace officer, officials refused to say whether he was carrying a weapon.
"We are reviewing Mr. Hasse's cases and following up on any leads that would give us rise for a person of interest," Aulbaugh said. In addition to local authorities, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the case.
That could be a daunting task. Hasse joined the Kaufman County district attorney's office three years ago and previously worked in the Dallas County district attorney's office.
Hasse was chief of the organized crime unit when he was an assistant prosecutor in Dallas County in the 1980s, and he handled similar cases in Kaufman County, 33 miles southeast of Dallas.
Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland said Hasse was one of 12 attorneys on his staff, all of whom handle hundreds of cases at a time.
"Anything anybody can think of, we're looking through," McLelland said.
In recent years, Hasse played major roles in Kaufman County's most high-profile cases, including one in which a justice of the peace was convicted on theft and burglary charges and another in which a man was convicted of killing his former girlfriend and her 10-year-old daughter.
"Hasse was a top-notch prosecutor who did a lot of things," said Steve Hulme, a family law attorney who practices in both Dallas and Kaufman. "There are a lot of cases to look at."
As a licensed peace officer in Texas, Hasse could openly carry a firearm and make arrests. According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, Hasse obtained his license in 1988 and kept it current through 1995. He then allowed it to lapse for 16 years before renewing it in July 2011.
"If you saw Mark around the office or the courthouse, he generally had a pistol," said Bill Wirskye, a Dallas attorney who recently served as a special prosecutor on a murder case in Kaufman County.
Wirskye, a former Dallas County prosecutor, said prosecutors in Texas have been known to carry guns, although it's not typical.
"I don't think (Hasse) lived in fear, but he was always careful," Wirskye said. "He knew the job carried certain dangers."
Along with looking at Hasse's cases, authorities are monitoring video surveillance cameras from convenience stores and other businesses in the area to see if a vehicle linked to the killing was spotted. The vehicle is believed to be an older model, gray, four-door sedan.
Authorities also hope that a growing pot of reward money will lead to an arrest. By late Friday, more than $70,000 had been put up, with $30,000 coming from Dallas County DA Craig Watkins' asset forfeiture fund.
"We will follow every lead that we receive," Aulbaugh said.
The Kaufman County Courthouse reopened Friday, and many county employees were back at work, although the DA's office remained closed.
"We're in mourning," County Judge Bruce Wood said during an interview in his office. "I think we're still in a state of, 'We can't believe this happened.'"
Robbins reported from Dallas.