THE white supremacist group Aryan Brotherhood may be behind the weekend killings of a Texas district attorney and his wife, which occurred months after an assistant prosecutor was shot dead in the same county, a Texas lawmaker said today.
"I believe it is a group. It could possibly be the Aryan Brotherhood," Texas Congressman Ted Poe, a Republican and veteran former judge and prosecutor in his state, told CNN.
Poe did not elaborate on his hypothesis about the killings, or say what exactly his information was based on. But he stressed that only 13 prosecutors have been murdered across the United States in the last 30 years and said the Texas killings had all the hallmarks of a brazen campaign of fear and intimidation, "specifically aimed at certain people in particular roles in law enforcement."
Investigators have not named any suspects in the case.
"It seems to me that a scenario may be developing that the district attorney's office was investigating this gang, or another gang, and they wanted to prevent that investigation," Poe added.
Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were discovered with fatal gunshot wounds at their home near Forney, Texas, on Saturday. Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down in January.
Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said on Sunday that the FBI, Texas Rangers and other law enforcement officials were investigating the double homicide.
The Kaufman County Sheriff's Office was notified shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday that the two bodies had been found in their rural home just outside Forney, about 20 miles from Dallas, Byrnes said.
While he would not discuss possible suspects in the case, law enforcement officials are widely believed to have focused on the prison-based Aryan Brotherhood in the still unsolved Hasse killing. Kaufman County is considered a regional stronghold of the gang, which Poe said was heavily involved in drugs and prostitution and "anything for money."
Hasse was shot and killed on Jan. 31 in a gangland-style killing just outside the Kaufman County courthouse. The killing came on the same day the U.S. Justice Department released a statement saying the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office was involved in a racketeering case against the Aryan Brotherhood.
In an indictment unsealed in November, the Texas arm of the Aryan Brotherhood was described as a gang responsible for murders, arson, assault and other crimes, and prone to "extreme violence and threats of violence to maintain internal discipline and retaliate against those believed to be cooperating with law enforcement."
Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood told Reuters the last known contact with the McLellands was about 7 p.m. on Friday.
Wood described McLelland as a friend and colleague and said he and McLelland had spoken regularly about Hasse and the investigation.
"This is not just an attack on two very fine people, but an attack on the justice system," Wood told Reuters.
"I can't fathom someone doing this," Wood said. "It is completely senseless, and completely out of the blue. Perhaps it is retaliation, but we won't know that until someone is caught."
McLelland, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, had five children, including a son who is an officer with the Dallas Police Department, according to a county website.
Authorities have made no arrests in Hasse's killing. McLelland had vowed to bring his killer to justice.
Last month, the Hasse case took a turn when the Kaufman police chief said the FBI was looking for any link between Hasse's death and the March 19 shooting death of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements.
Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, a Colorado prison parolee suspected of killing Clements, died in a shootout with police in Decatur, Texas, on March 21. Ebel was a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211 Crew and had a swastika tattoo, prison records indicate.
Wood said investigators found no link between the shooting death of Clements and the killing of Hasse.
The Dallas Morning News said the Texas Department of Public Safety had issued a statewide bulletin in December warning that authorities had received "credible information" the Aryan Brotherhood was "actively planning retaliation against law enforcement officials" who helped secure indictments in Houston against dozens of members, including the gang's leadership.
More recently, the Department of Public Safety had identified brutal Mexican drug cartels as threats to law enforcement officials in Texas.
"The Mexican cartels are the most significant organized crime threat to Texas, with six of the eight cartels having command and control networks operating in the state," the department said in a February report.