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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Texas prosecutor who reportedly was investigating Aryan Brotherhood is killed after getting shot five times near courthouse

A prosecutor who reportedly was investigating the Aryan Brotherhood was killed after getting shot five times near the courthouse in a small Texas town on Thursday morning, and two suspects remain on the loose.

The victim has been identified as Mark Hasse, 57, an assistant district attorney for Kaufman County. Hasse's name was being withheld until his family was notified.

Hasse was exiting his car on his way to court in Kaufman, a town of less fewer than 7,000, when he was approached by two suspects, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The shooting took place in a parking lot where many prosecutors and judges park. Hasse was taken away in ambulance, though it remains unclear whether he died at the hospital or en route.

"My secretary heard the gunshots," Kaufman defense lawyer Eric Smenner told the newspaper.

With the suspects still on the loose, the courthouse was closed and police locked down the immediate area. The school district also locked down schools as a precaution.

Investigators believe the two suspects fled in an older model Ford Taurus in either a brown or silver color.

State records show Hasse was certified as a peace officer 25 years ago, according to the Dallas Morning News. He almost always carried a gun, friends told the newspaper.

Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes said it appears that Hasse was targeted.

"I would say from all appearances it is," Byrnes said, according to a local NBC affiliate. "But we have no concrete information on that. We're pursuing every avenue right now."

The assistant DA’s caseload included investigation of members of the Aryan Brotherhood, sources told the Morning News.

"If this really was an assassination by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, we are about to see a war begin," Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the Daily News on Thursday.

The Aryan Brotherhood in Texas has the reputation of being the most violent faction within the white supremacist group, Potok says.

The Brotherhood was originally formed by San Quentin State Prison inmates in 1964 when authorities began to desegregate prisons. There are now more than 15,000 members around the country.

It is the largest - and most violent - prison gang, according to Potok. While only a 0.1% of inmates are in the Aryan Brotherhood, 18% of all prison murders are committed by the white supremacist group.

To enter the gang, one usually is required to kill someone. And the only way to leave the gang is usually by death.

Authorities plan to investigate whether Hasse's probe of the hate group has anything to do with his death, according to the Morning News.

Hasse worked as a prosecutor for the Dallas County DA's office before moving to Kaufman. He was chief of the Dallas County DA's organized-crime unit from 1985 until 1988, according to the Morning News.

“He was revered and he did an outstanding job,” Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood told the Morning News before Hasse was officially identified. “We see each other every day. … It’s a very small courthouse.”

“I’m just sad and concerned for the individual involved and the family members," Mayor Tony Rader told the paper.

Kaufman is 40 miles from Dallas, which took notice of the shooting.

"Please be aware of your surroundings when leaving the building for your safety," reads an email by the Dallas County DA to his staff, obtained by WFAA-TV. "This is probably a isolated incident but until further notice if you plan to work past dark today please be careful and ask security for assistance escorting you to your vehicles if needed. I will keep you informed as to the arrest of the suspects when i am notified. Don't panic but please be aware of your environment when leaving the building."

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