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Slain Texas prosecutor remembered as fighter for justice

by

By Jon Nielsen

TERRELL, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas prosecutor gunned down by an unknown assailant outside Dallas last month was remembered as a tenacious advocate for justice at a memorial service on Saturday attended by hundreds of former colleagues and law enforcement officials.

Mark Hasse, 57, relished putting criminals away and despite the threats he faced as a prosecutor, enjoyed his walk to work from a parking lot a block from his courthouse, said Justin Lewis, an investigator for the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office where Hasse served as a prosecutor.

"He definitely didn't allow fear to rule his life," Lewis said at the service attended by about 300 people in a school auditorium.

Hasse was shot multiple times by a masked gunman on January 31 near the Kaufman County Courthouse in Kaufman, east of Dallas. A reward for information leading to an arrest for his killing has reached $80,000 and is growing.

With the attacker still at large, police from nearby cities provided extra security for the memorial in Terrell, 12 miles north of Kaufman. Police officers could be seen scanning the area with binoculars before the service.

Investigators have been examining Hasse's court cases to determine if someone he may have prosecuted played a role in his killing, but they have few leads.

"There are many unanswered questions right now," Lewis said. "Those answers will eventually come. We must remain vigilant."

Hasse was killed the same day the U.S. Department of Justice released a statement that said the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office was among the agencies involved in a racketeering case against the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist group.

Hasse had participated in organized crime prosecutions in Kaufman and Dallas counties and had been a criminal defense attorney in Dallas. He worked for the Dallas County District Attorney's Office from 1982 to 1988, before going into private practice.

"Mark was ruthless when it came to fighting evil," said Janice Warder, a former colleague in the Dallas office.

Friends and colleagues recalled Hasse's fearlessness both in his professional and personal lives. Hasse, who was a pilot, was nearly killed in the mid-1990s in a plane crash, his friend and former law partner Marcus Busch said.

The crash of the World War Two-era plane left Hasse in a coma for several days. He returned to his defense practice after a long recovery, then became a Kaufman County prosecutor.

"That's what his calling was. It brought him the greatest happiness to be a prosecutor," Busch said. "He wanted to fight for justice. He wanted to be there for all of us. He gave his life for what he believed in."

(Editing by David Bailey and Peter Cooney)

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