Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 31, 2013

Prosecutor gunned down in Kaufman

Two suspects sought in areawide manhunt

From staff and wire reports
The Athens Review

KAUFMAN — An assistant district attorney was shot and killed Thursday morning near the North Texas courthouse where he worked, and authorities said they were searching through his cases to try to find clues about why he may have been targeted.

Mark Hasse, 57, had exited his vehicle in the parking lot behind the Kaufman County Courthouse annex and was walking toward the building when a masked gunman shot him multiple times just before 9 a.m., Kaufman County authorities said. Hasse was taken away in an ambulance, but it’s unclear if he died at the hospital or en route.

Investigators were talking to witnesses and had some leads but had not arrested anyone as of late Thursday evening, Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said. He urged the public to come forward with tips. The suspect or suspects were believed to have fled in a brown or silver older model Ford Taurus. Officials didn’t immediately indicate any motive for the shooting in Kaufman, located about 33 miles southeast of Dallas.

Henderson County law enforcement officials offered assistance in the search for the suspects, and Sheriff Ray Nutt said he ordered an increased presence of deputies in various areas across the county.

The tragedy hit too close to home for many in neighboring Henderson County. Attorney Ashley Adams-McKee, who offices in Athens and is the wife of Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee, was in a county court-at-law courtroom preparing to continue a weeklong trial when the shooting occurred.

She said moments after the shooting, several child welfare officials reported hearing what sounded like gunfire. Soon after, the presiding judge in Mrs. McKee’s case entered the courtroom.

“She said, ‘Everybody be still, nobody move, we’re on lockdown,’” Mrs. McKee said. “It was just so shocking in that moment.”

After about an hour, the people in the courtroom were escorted to their vehicles. The trial was postponed until Monday.

Mrs. McKee said attorneys understand that their chosen field can sometimes involve emotional cases that have the potential to turn dangerous.

“We can’t let it stop us from doing our job,” Mr. McKee said later in the afternoon. “They’re not going to stop us from doing our job. But right now I think we’ve got our heads on a swivel a little bit more.”

“I hope the people that did this are watching because we’re very confident that we’re going to pull you out of whatever hole you’re in. We’re going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland said Thursday afternoon.

He said his office, the county and state had suffered a “devastating loss” and called Hasse a spectacular prosecutor who would not be easily replaced. He said Hasse, who worked in a variety of areas such as organized crime, knew the dangers of his job but readily accepted them.

Hasse, who previously worked as an assistant prosecutor in Dallas County, had worked in Kaufman County for three years. McLelland said Hasse worked hard and took work home with him at night and on weekends.

Investigators gathered in a parking lot adjacent to the annex where the prosecutor was shot. Yellow tape and law enforcement vehicles blocked the area from spectators. Aulbaugh said a $20,000 reward was being offered.

“It’s going to take a long time to get over this,” said Wayne Gent, an attorney whose law office is on the courthouse square. “And the thing is — everybody’s vulnerable.”