Another Texas prosecutor is slain; officials seek motives
The last time a prosecutor was gunned down in Kaufman County, Texas, in January, top county prosecutor Mike McLelland stood in front of reporters and vowed to carry on.
“We’ll still make the walk, and we’ll still show up,” McLelland said of the courthouse parking lot where one of his assistant district attorneys, Mark Hasse, was gunned down by an unidentified assailant Jan. 31. “And we’ll still send bad guys out of Kaufman County every chance we get. We’re not stopping. We’re not slowing down.”
Two months later, on Saturday evening, McLelland, 63, and his wife, Cynthia, 65, were found shot dead in their home near Forney, east of Dallas. And once again, Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes stood in front of reporters without answers as the attack raised fears of a Christopher Dorner-style plot on the lives of law enforcement officials in Texas.
Byrnes wouldn’t say whether the two prosecutors’ deaths were related. He wouldn’t say if the home showed any sign of forced entry. He wouldn’t say if there were any indications that a white supremacist group was involved, as McLelland himself had speculated about the Aryan Brotherhood’s involvement with Hasse’s death.
Byrnes also said McLelland had not voiced any concerns about his safety, although McLelland himself told a slightly different story in an interview with the Associated Press two weeks ago: The prosecutor had started carrying a gun after his colleague’s death and had started answering the door more carefully.
“I’m ahead of everybody else because, basically, I’m a soldier,” McLelland, a 23-year Army veteran, told the AP.
The attack on McLelland bore a slight similarity to the doorstep slaying of Colorado prisons director Tom Clements at his Colorado Springs home on March 19.
Officials suspect that Clements was killed by recently paroled inmate Evan Spencer Ebel, 28, who was reportedly a member of a Colorado-based white-supremacist prison gang known as the 211 Crew. Officials have not confirmed that the 211 had anything to do with Clements’ slaying, however.
Ebel died after a highway shootout with police in Wise County, Texas, on March 21.
El Paso County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department spokesman Joe Roybal told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that investigators handling Clements’ case in Colorado had called Texas officials about the prosecutors’ slayings but that they had no indications of a connection with Clements’ slaying.
“But we definitely think it’s worth looking into,” Roybal said.
“We’re not publicly discussing anything about the 211 Crew because we have not identified any involvement outside of Ebel at this time,” Roybal said, adding that officials were nonetheless “focusing on all possible associates of Mr. Ebel.”
McLelland’s death brought a swarm of federal and local police agencies to assist the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department with the investigation. Sheriff Byrnes declined to say what security measures were being taken for other prosecutors and public officials but said security at the courthouse would be visibly increased on Monday.
“I don’t want to see our Forney community living in fear,” Forney Mayor Darren Rozell told the Dallas Morning News. “This appears to be a targeted attack. All we can do is pray for the McLelland family, and we need to pray for those who are handling the investigation so they can do the best they can to bring those responsible to justice.”
[For the record, 4:25 p.m. March 31: An earlier version of this misspelled the Kaufman County sheriff’s name as David Burns. It’s actually David Byrnes.]
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.