Suspicion in DA death shifts to white supremacists
Law enforcement officials walk out of the home of Kaufman District Attorney Mike McLelland Monday, April 1, 2013, near Forney, Texas. McLelland and his wife were both murdered at their home Saturday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Suspicion in the slayings of a Texas district attorney and his wife shifted yesterday to a violent white supremacist prison gang that was the focus of a December law enforcement bulletin warning that its members might try to attack the police or prosecutors.
The weekend deaths of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, who were found fatally shot in their home, were especially jarring because they happened just a couple of months after one of the county’s assistant district attorneys, Mark Hasse, was killed near his courthouse office.
And less than two weeks ago, Colorado’s prison chief was shot to death at his front door, apparently by a white supremacist ex-convict who later died in a shootout with deputies after fleeing to Texas.
The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas has been in the state’s prison system since the 1980s, when it began as a white supremacist gang that protected its members and ran illegal activities, including drug distribution, said Terry Pelz, a former Texas prison warden and expert on the gang.
The group, which has a long history of violence and retribution, is now believed to have more than 4,000 members in and out of prison who deal in a variety of criminal enterprises, including prostitution, robbery and murder.
It has a paramilitary structure with five factions around the state, Pelz said. Each faction has a general, who is part of a steering committee known as the “Wheel,” which controls all criminal aspects of the gang, according to court papers.
Four top leaders of the group were indicted in October for crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking. Two months later, authorities issued the bulletin warning that the gang might try to retaliate against law enforcement for the investigation that also led to the arrest of 30 other members.
At the time, prosecutors called the indictments “a devastating blow to the leadership” of the gang. Pelz said the indictments might have fragmented the gang’s leadership.
McLelland was part of a multi-agency task force that investigated the Aryan Brotherhood with help from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the police in Houston and Fort Worth. McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death Saturday in their rural home just outside the town of Forney, about 20 miles from Dallas.
Detectives have declined to say whether the Aryan Brotherhood is the focus of their investigation, but the state Department of Public Safety bulletin warned that the group is “involved in issuing orders to inflict ‘mass casualties or death’ to law enforcement officials involved in the recent case.”