Texas district attorney and wife murdered; white supremacist gang suspected
Suspicion in the murders of a Texas district attorney and his wife has shifted to a violent white supremacist prison gang.
It was the focus of a December law enforcement bulletin warning that its members might try to attack police or prosecutors.
Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were found shot in their home at the weekend.
Their murders happened just a couple of months after one of the county’s assistant district attorneys, Mark Hasse, was killed near his courthouse office.
And less than two weeks ago, Colorado’s prison chief was shot to death at his front door, apparently by a white supremacist ex-convict who died in a shoot-out with deputies after fleeing to Texas.
The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas has been in the state’s prison system since the 1980s, when it began as a white supremacist gang that protected its members and ran illegal activities, including drug distribution, according to Terry Pelz, a former Texas prison warden and expert on the gang.
The group, which has a long history of violence and retribution, is now believed to have more than 4,000 members in and out of prison who deal in a variety of criminal enterprises, including prostitution, robbery and murder.
It has a paramilitary structure with five factions around the state, Mr Pelz said.
Four leaders of the group were charged in October over crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking.
Two months later, authorities issued the bulletin warning that the gang might try to retaliate against law enforcement for the investigation that also led to the arrest of 30 other members.
At the time, prosecutors called the charges “a devastating blow to the leadership” of the gang.
Mr Hasse’s death on January 31 came on the same day as the first guilty pleas were entered. No arrests have been made over his killing.
Mr McLelland was part of a multi-agency task force that investigated the Aryan Brotherhood with help from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and police in Houston and Fort Worth.
He and his wife Cynthia were found shot to death on Saturday in their rural home just outside the town of Forney, about 20 miles from Dallas.
Detectives have declined to say if the Aryan Brotherhood is the focus of their investigation, but the state Department of Public Safety bulletin warned that the group is “involved in issuing orders to inflict ’mass casualties or death’ to law enforcement officials involved in the recent case”.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies throughout Texas were on high alert, and steps were being taken to protect DAs and their staffs.
In Kaufman County, deputies escorted some employees into the courthouse yesterday after the killings stirred fears that other public workers could be targeted.
Law enforcement officers were seen patrolling outside the courthouse, one holding a semi-automatic weapon, while others walked around inside.
Deputies were called to the McLelland home by relatives and friends who had been unable to reach the pair.
When they arrived, investigators found the couple had been shot multiple times, and cartridge casings were scattered near their bodies.
The killings also followed the murder of Colorado’s corrections director, Tom Clements, who was killed on March 19 when he answered the doorbell at his home outside Colorado Springs.
Two days later, Evan Ebel, a white supremacist and former Colorado inmate suspected of shooting Mr Clements, died in a shoot-out with Texas deputies about 100 miles from Kaufman.
In an interview shortly after the Colorado killing, Mr McLelland himself raised the possibility that Mr Hasse was gunned down by a white supremacist gang.
After that attack, Mr McLelland said, he carried a gun everywhere around town, even when walking his dog.