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District Attorney's Death Sets Texas Town On Edge


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. Let's follow up, now, on the shooting of a district attorney in Texas. Somebody shot Kaufman County D.A. Mark McLelland and his wife in their home. Weeks ago, his assistant D.A. was also killed; shot on his way to work. Tanya Eiserer is a crime reporter for the Dallas Morning News. She's following the case. Welcome to the program.


INSKEEP: What does the physical evidence of the D.A.'s shooting tell you about that crime?

EISERER: Well, I think it tells us that this was somebody who showed up early Saturday morning and surprised the McLellands. It's believed that Mrs. McLelland actually answered the door. Her body was found towards the front of the house. There were multiple shell casings around her body, and she had been shot multiple times. Mr. McLelland was found towards the rear of the home; and based on the way he was found, they think he was most likely running towards the back bedroom to get a weapon - because he had a weapon in his bedroom. It doesn't appear that he reached his weapon. And he also had multiple gunshot wounds, and there were shell casings around his body as well.

INSKEEP: Now, as we heard about this case, here at NPR, we were a little surprised because we were aware that the assistant D.A. had been shot recently; that there was a lot of concern about that. And people wondered, didn't D.A. McLelland have police protection, at that point?

EISERER: Well, in the weeks after the killing of Mark Hasse, they did put police protection on Mike McLelland and other members of the office. But, you know, you can't maintain, you know, 24-hour protection on somebody, you know, indefinitely. So I think they had - you know, things had kind of started to return to some sense of normal. And, you know, Mike McLelland had publicly said that he carried his weapon and he was prepared, you know, if someone should approach him. But, you know, when someone - in this case, someone came to his house with an assault rifle. So that would be very difficult to defend against.

INSKEEP: Well, let's try to understand what possible suspects are out there. I suppose investigators must begin with cases that this office pursued, right?

EISERER: Right. You know, there has been a massive effort to look at all the office's cases; potential, you know, suspects who may have some sort of revenge motive. Some people have talked about the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas because as you know, there was a bulletin put out in December by the Texas Department of Public Safety, about, you know, potential threats to law enforcement - not directed specifically at Kaufman County, but that the group was planning to carry out attacks. And so that's definitely been one angle that's been looked at. They've also been looking at, you know, cartels - you know, because...

INSKEEP: Drug cartels.

EISERER: ...Kaufman County had a reputation for being, you know, very tough, very law and order in their approach to things. You know, then there's sort of the outliers. There have been some, you know, names - and I won't say them publicly - of people that have been floated as potential suspects in cases that had been tried and people that were very angry. But I think that the most troubling thing about all this is that law enforcement, from what I understand - and from my conversations with various officials - they don't have any solid leads against anybody.

INSKEEP: Well, given that that's the case, let's just try to go back to that physical evidence from the crime scene, about which you have learned so much. When police look at what they see - the position of the bodies, the number of shell casings on the ground, any other evidence they may have; do they see this as a crime that was committed by a single person or multiple people?

EISERER: Most of the people I've talked to think it was probably one attacker with an assault rifle, but I don't think they're completely sure. They are hopeful - because there were so many shell casings - that they'll be able to get fingerprints, or something else, that might yield a suspect. In the earlier killing of Mark Hasse, there weren't any shells left behind, so there was no physical evidence. And the witness accounts were pretty vague. And so what had happened in the earlier case was, you know, they had run down hundreds of leads. But they had not been able to really come, you know, upon one that would, you know, really take them in a direction where they could make an arrest.

INSKEEP: What's Kaufman County, Texas, like?

EISERER: I mean, this is a rural area. You know, it's about 20, 25 miles from Dallas. In fact, I know a lot of police officers that live out there. And they live about there because, you know, it's quiet; it's bucolic; it's - you know, it's a nice place to raise your kids. This is not the kind of thing where you expect something like this to happen. And of course, you know, we wouldn't expect it to happen in Dallas, either, because when have you ever heard of something like this? I mean, I haven't. I've covered law enforcement for, you know, 17 years. And something like this is just unprecedented. I mean, the first death was unprecedented and then now, with this, it's just an unbelievable situation.

INSKEEP: Tanya Eiserer, crime reporter for The Dallas Morning News, thanks very much.

EISERER: Appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.