DALLAS (CN) - Two masked gunmen fled in an early 2000s Ford Taurus after murdering an assistant district attorney east of Dallas on Thursday, in what colleagues believe was a work-related killing.
Mark Hasse, 57, an assistant district attorney for Kaufman County, was shot to death in a parking lot just before 9 a.m.
The county courthouse and area schools were put on lockdown for the rest of the day.
No arrests had been made by Thursday evening. Kaufman County officials offer $20,000 for information leading to the conviction of the shooters. Kaufman police are at (972) 932-3094. Anonymous tips may be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-877-847-7522.
Colleagues described Hasse as "squeaky clean" and "a spectacular prosecutor."
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said Thursday afternoon that an arrest had been made, but he retracted his statement after Kaufman County authorities denied it.
Hasse had been "heavily involved" in investigating the Aryan Brotherhood, the Dallas Morning News reported Thursday, attributing the information to "authorities with knowledge of the assistant DA's caseload."
Hours after Hasse was murdered, two members of the Aryan Brotherhood pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, in a Texas case that Kaufman County prosecutors helped investigate, the Department of Justice said in a statement
No officials have linked the killing to the guilty pleas.
(Ben Christian Dillon, of Houston, and James Marshall Meldrum, both 40, of Dallas, pleaded guilty to conspiring to participate in racketeering, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
("According to court documents, Dillon, Meldrum and other ABT [Aryan Brotherhood of Texas] gang members and associates, agreed to commit multiple acts of murder, robbery, arson, kidnapping and narcotics trafficking on behalf of the ABT gang," the Houston U.S. attorney said in the statement.
("Dillon admitted to trafficking in methamphetamine, acting as an enforcer to collect drug debts owed to the ABT enterprise, committing acts of arson for the gang and attempting to kill a fellow ABT gang member who had been marked for death by senior ABT officials. Meldrum admitted to trafficking in methamphetamine and severely beating a subordinate gang member," according to the U.S. attorney.)
Hasse, a former prosecutor for Dallas County, was well regarded by his colleagues.
"Mark was really a great guy. He was the consummate prosecutor. He was hard working, loved his job, and juries loved him for some reason," Dallas attorney Ted Steinke told WFAA-TV. "He wasn't very large in stature, but juries loved him and he exuded confidence."
Steinke had been Hasse's boss at the Dallas County District Attorney's office. Hasse was chief of the Dallas County DA's organized crime section from 1985 to 1988. He served as president of the Dallas chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He joined the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office in July 2010.
Kaufman County Judge Bruce Bell said the county District Attorney's office will be closed today, but other county offices will be open, including the courthouse.
McLelland spoke fondly of Hasse, who was unmarried, had no children and had just bought a house in Kaufman County.
"Mark was fully aware of the dangers. He accepted them readily," McLelland told the Morning News. "It was simply the nature of the beast to be working and dealing with bad, bad people on a regular basis.
"Kaufman County, the state of Texas and especially my office suffered a devastating loss. We lost a really good man. He was an excellent friend and a spectacular prosecutor."
McLelland had a message for the shooters: "I hope that the people that did this are watching. Because we're confident we're going to find you, pull you out of whatever hole you're in, bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the full extent of the law."
Kaufman County, pop. 104,000, is immediately east of Dallas County and includes the suburbs of Forney and Seagoville. Its seat is Kaufman.
Hasse's murder came one day after a Phoenix-area attorney
was shot and critically wounded in an office park by an opponent in a mediation hearing.
Attorney Mark Hummels, of Osborn Maledon, was not expected to survive, his law firm said in a statement
. Hummels' client was killed.
The client, Steven D. Singer, 48, CEO of call center Fusion Contact Centers, and Hummels were shot by Arthur D. Harmon, 70. Harmon was found dead at a Mesa shopping center Thursday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.