Reward increased to $71,150 for suspects in assistant DA murder

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by MARJORIE OWENS, MATT GOODMAN & CYNTHIA IZAGUIRRE

WFAA

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 5:47 PM

DALLAS, Texas – In an interview with KVUE's sister station WFAA Friday morning, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins shared his concerns over the lack of security for prosecutors and revealed the county's plan to match a reward in the case of the shooting death of Mark Hasse.

An assistant district attorney in Kaufman County, Hasse was fatally shot Thursday morning while outside the courthouse. The suspects fled the scene, leading to a massive search that continues.

During a morning press conference, Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said Hasse was shot "multiple times in the body causing his death."

He would not release further information regarding his body or whether Hasse’s wallet or any other property was missing when he was found.

Aulbaugh would also not discuss particulars of the crime scene, saying releasing such details would compromise the infant investigation. Placards seen near where Hasse was gunned down Thursday did not indicate bullet fragments or shell casings, the chief added.

"Any time we process a major crime scene, placards are used to identify potential evidence," he said. "Once we release that crime scene, any evidence that remains may be questionable." 

Authorities have still not released a description of the suspects. Department of Public Safety officials sent out an alert to be on the lookout for an older model Ford Taurus after the shooting. That was it, though –– Aulbaugh said if police knew the license plate number of the getaway car, it would have been released. 

To up the pressure on tipsters, Watkins said Dallas County will match Kaufman County's $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in the shooting.

At a news conference later in the morning, Kaufman County officials said the reward total ballooned to $64,500 as of 10 a.m. 

Just before 3 p.m., officials announced the total had grown to $71,150. 

Crime Stoppers is accepting anonymous tips at 1.877.847.7522. 

Watkins said over the last six years, he's worked toward increasing security for those working with the Dallas County District Attorney's Office.

"For whatever reason, we don't have [security]," he said. "And unfortunately, this incident will bring that to the forefront and hopefully the individuals holding the purse strings will take it seriously."

Sheriff David Byrnes said security around the Kaufman courthouse visibly swelled on Friday. He and Aulbagh were quick to quell any speculation that this was anything but an isolated incident. Hours after the shooting, the Department of Justice issued a news release thanking Hasse’s agency for its help in an investigation into the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas gang. 

Byrnes and Aulbagh said the timing of that release appears to be purely coincidental. Typically, local agencies such as Kaufman County’s DA Office will turn the case over to state and federal prosecutors, who can secure stiffer punishments. 

"We have no specific information that the Aryan Brotherhood is a fact here. We have no indication that Mr. Hasse had directly worked any cases recently that were related to the Aryan Brotherhood," Aulbaugh said. However, "It doesn't rule out that someone that he had handled had involvement." 

At this time, Byrnes said, there's no indication that any county workers are being targeted.

"From what we indicate, this is a single victim, there's no vendetta against the county," Byrnes said. "We have an effort to reassure the employees coming and going that it is safe. And we will be addressing the overall security in the county as we do periodically." 

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLellan said the office is dedicating its resources to investigating Hasse's caseload, which he estimates to include 380 to 390 cases a year. He said the office will return to normal "in a few days." 

"What we're doing right now, I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but the folks are trying to deal with what happened," he said. "This has never happened before. 

McLellan then vowed to "open back up for business with a vengeance" and said his office was vigorously investigating. 

"There are people looking through things that you couldn't imagine,” he said.

Before working with Kaufman County, Hasse worked with the Dallas County District Attorney's Office as chief of the organized specialized crime division between 1982 and 1988.

Watkins described him as a "fair" and "strong" prosecutor.

"This man committed his life to doing what's right, making sure we get the bad guys and get them off of our streets," he said. "And as a result of that, he lost his life."

Such work, Watkins said, places prosecutors in danger. The Dallas County DA said he has received numerous death threats, many of which focus on him being black.

"That happens," he said. "Unfortunately, that still happens."

The district attorney said he hopes the tragic shooting of Hasse will spur change.

"We park in the same parking spaces as those individuals we have to prosecute," he said. "We have to get on the elevator with those individuals who are coming to court, and their families."

Watkins also addressed his mistake when he announced Thursday that a person was taken into custody in connection to the Hasse case.

"We got some bad information," he said. "We made a determination that we needed to have the public know that we solved this or had a person in custody as quickly as possible, which didn't happen."

Kaufman County officials said anyone who would like to contribute to the reward fund can do so by making a donation to the Mark Hasse Fund at any American National Bank branch.

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