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Texas district attorney shot dead in second apparent white supremacist attack

Killings come less than two weeks after Colorado prison chief was shot to death, apparently by a white supremacist ex-convict.

Kaufman county sheriff David Byrnes after a news conference in Kaufman, Texas, on Sunday over the killings of district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia.
Kaufman county sheriff David Byrnes after a news conference in Kaufman, Texas, on Sunday over the killings of district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia.

KAUFMAN, Texas // A district attorney in Texas took no chances after one of his assistant prosecutors was shot dead two months ago.

Mike McLelland carried a gun everywhere he went and took extra care when answering the door at his home.

"I'm ahead of everybody else because, basically, I'm a soldier," the 23-year army veteran and Kaufman County District Attorney said less than two weeks ago.

On Saturday, he and his wife were shot dead in their rural home just outside the town of Forney, about 30 kilometres from Dallas.

While investigators gave no motive for the killings, Forney mayor Darren Rozell said: "It appears this was not a random act.

"Everybody's a little on edge and a little shocked."

The killings came less than two weeks after Colorado's prison chief was shot to death at his front door, apparently by a white supremacist former convict, and two months after the Kaufman County assistant district attorney, Mark Hasse, was killed in a car park a block from his courthouse office. No arrests have been made over Hasse's killing on January 31.

McLelland, 63, is the 13th prosecutor killed in the US since the National Association of District Attorneys began keeping count in the 1960s.

Sheriff David Byrnes has not given details of how the killings unfolded and said there was nothing to indicate for certain whether the district attorney's murder was connected to Hasse's.

Colorado's corrections director, Tom Clements, was killed on March 19 when he answered the door at his home outside Colorado Springs. Evan Spencer Ebel, a former Colorado inmate and white supremacist who authorities suspect shot Clements, died in a shoot-out with Texas deputies two days later, about 160 km from Kaufman.

A police official in Colorado, Joe Roybal, said on Sunday that investigators had found no evidence so far connecting the Texas killings to the Colorado case, but added: "We're examining all possibilities." McLelland, shortly after the Colorado killing, raised the possibility that Hasse was shot dead by a white supremacist gang.

The weekend killings raised concerns for prosecutors across Texas and some were taking extra security precautions. Mr Byrnes said security would be increased at the courthouse in Kaufman but declined to say if or how other prosecutors in McLelland's office would be protected.

Mike Anderson, the Harris County district attorney, said he accepted the sheriff's offer of 24-hour security for him and his family after learning about the killings, mostly over concerns for his family's safety. Mr Anderson said he also would take precautions at his Houston office, the largest one in Texas, which has more than 270 prosecutors.

"I think district attorneys across Texas are still in a state of shock," he said.

McLelland, elected district attorney in 2010, said his office had prosecuted several cases against racist gangs, who have a strong presence around Kaufman County, a mostly rural area dotted with subdivisions, with a population of about 104,000.

"We put some real dents in the Aryan Brotherhood around here in the past year," he said.

In recent years, the DA's office also prosecuted a case in which a justice of the peace was found guilty of theft and burglary, and another case in which a man was convicted of killing his former girlfriend and her 10-year-old daughter.

McLelland said he carried a gun everywhere he went, even to walk his dog around town, a suburb outside the Dallas area. He figured assassins were more likely to try to attack him outside. He said he had warned all of his employees to be constantly on the alert.

"The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it," he said of dealing with the danger, "because they're going to need it more in the future."

The number of attacks on prosecutors, judges and top law enforcement officers in the US has spiked in the past three years, according to Glenn McGovern, an investigator with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office in California, who tracks such cases.

For about a month after Hasse's killing, sheriff's deputies were parked in the district attorney's driveway, said Sam Rosander, a neighbour of McLelland's.

The FBI and the Texas Rangers, a state law enforcement agency, joined the investigation into the McLellands' deaths.

McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, 65, were the parents of two daughters and three sons. One son is a police officer in Dallas.

The couple had moved into the home a few years ago, said Mr Rozell, the mayor.

"Real friendly, became part of our community quickly," Mr Rozell said. "They were a really pleasant, happy couple."