Focus turns to racist group in Texas killings

White supremacists suspected in fatal shootings of prosecutor and his wife

The home of Kaufman county district attorney Mike McLelland is surrounded by police tape in Forney, Texas, yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

The home of Kaufman county district attorney Mike McLelland is surrounded by police tape in Forney, Texas, yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 05:00

Prosecutors in the US state of Texas have been put on alert and provided with 24-hour protection following two fatal attacks since January that may be linked to a white supremacist group.

Texas congressman Ted Poe, a Republican and former judge and prosecutor in the state, said that the killings of a state district attorney, Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia may have been carried out by the Aryan Brotherhood.

Mr McLelland, an attorney in Kaufman County, and his wife were found on Saturday with fatal gunshot wounds at their home near Forney, 20 miles from Dallas.

Assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down in a gangland-style killing near the Kaufman County Courthouse on January 31st – the same day the US Justice Department said that the attorney’s office was prosecuting a racketeering case against the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist group.

Mr Poe said that he believed a group was behind the weekend killings. “It could possibly be the Aryan Brotherhood,” he told CNN without elaborating on why he believed the group was involved.

The congressman said the killings had the hallmarks of a campaign of intimidation “specifically aimed at certain people in particular roles in law enforcement.”

Mr McLelland had said in an interview last month, shortly after the murder of Colorado prison chief Tom Clements, that it was possible that that killing was perpetrated by a white supremacist gang.


Risks to prosecutors
He had himself spoken of the risks facing prosecutors, saying that he carried a gun and had warned employees to be constantly on alert to protect themselves.

“The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it because they’re going to need it more in the future,” said Mr McLelland.

The Kaufman County District Attorney Office had “put some real dents in the Aryan Brotherhood” over the past year, he said.

Mr McLelland was a US army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm in the first war in Iraq. He had five children.

Kaufman County judge Bruce Wood told local media that prosecutors working in the area had added extra security precautions.

He said he didn’t believe that the McLelland killings were a random act and that there had to be some connection to the killing of Hasse.


Suspect died in shoot-out
A suspect in the killing of Mr Clements, Evan Spencer Ebel, a 28-year-old Colorado paroled prisoner, died in a shoot-out with police in Decatur, Texas on March 21st, two days after the killing of the prison chief.

Ebel was a member of a white supremacist prison gang called the 211 Crew. He was also suspected of the killing of a pizza delivery driver in the Denver area two days before Mr Clements’s killing.

Investigators have not found a link between the shooting of Mr Clements in Colorado and the killing of Mr Hasse in Kaufman County, which is considered a stronghold for the Aryan Brotherhood.

The FBI, the Texas Rangers and other law enforcement agencies are investigating the weekend double killing at the couple’s rural home.

Mr McLelland is the 13th prosecutor killed in the US since records were first kept in the 1960s, according to the National District Attorneys Association.

Scott Burns, executive director of the association, said there were 40,000 district attorneys in the US, 85 per cent of whom ran small prosecution teams of four lawyers or fewer. The vast majority are state and local prosecutors, he said. “It is unrealistic to expect that you could have security detail in place for all of them,” he said. “Each prosecutor is in charge of their own personal safety.”