Texas County On High Alert After Second Law Official Is Killed

Kaufman County, Texas, is coming to grips Monday with the Easter-weekend shootings of the district attorney and his wife at their home — just two months after his top assistant district attorney was gunned down on the way to work. Local, state and FBI investigations are in high gear, and it's not clear whether officials are tying the latest killings to a case last month in Colorado, where the state's prison chief was shot and killed at home.

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FBI agents, Texas Rangers and a host of other law enforcement officials have descended on Kaufman County, Texas. They're investigating the murders of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia. The two were discovered Saturday night, shot dead in their home near Dallas. This is the second murder of a prosecutor in the county in less than eight weeks. Lauren Silverman of member station KERA begins our coverage.

LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: District Attorney Mike McLelland was on high alert after his assistant Mark Hasse was gunned down in broad daylight on his way into work in January. McLelland talked tough, calling those responsible scum and vowing to bring them to justice any way possible.

Investigators haven't officially tied the murders together, but suspicions are mounting, especially since only weeks ago, another prominent law official was shot at his front door in Colorado. The suspect in that murder was a white supremacist, who was killed in a gunfight with Texas police.

While officials aren't yet saying whether the prison-based white supremacist group called the Aryan Brotherhood is linked to any of the murders, Kaufman County is considered a regional stronghold of the gang known for violence. While Kaufman County's courthouse was open today, increased security was evident. Residents here, like Lisa Blake(ph), are visibly shaken by the murders.

LISA BLAKE: This is just horrific. I mean, I'm scared for the judges, actually, you know, and for the city workers because, I mean, I know all of them, you know? I'm just scared for them all.

SILVERMAN: In Dallas, just northwest of Kaufman County, First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris says he's never feared retaliation for prosecuting cases - that is, until now.

HEATH HARRIS: You know, what happened in Kaufman County is not only a Texas tragedy. It has national consequences because all prosecutors are now going to have to question what we do because, again, you're talking about a man who devoted his life to trying to protect the citizens of Kaufman County. And they not only killed him, they killed his wife.

SILVERMAN: Officials, from the governor of Texas to the mayor of neighboring Forney, are urging residents to stay calm, saying this appears to be a targeted attack, not a random one. No leads have been announced so far, and law enforcement officials are asking the public to pass along any tips to help them solve these murders. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Dallas, Texas.

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