“We spent a lot of time together during that time,” Burns noted.
When McLelland started working as Kaufman County DA, Burns said they talked occasionally over the phone. Then, on Jan. 31, McLelland's assistant district attorney, Mark Hasse, was gunned down as he arrived for work near the Kaufman County Courthouse. Burns said he called McLelland that night and his friend was angry.
Burns said McLelland told him at Hasse's memorial service, “I don't care how long it takes, I'm going to find the people or person responsible for this.”
The thoughts and feelings of district attorneys have been varied this week, according to Burns.
“It kind of runs the gamut,” he said, adding that at least one colleague said he was afraid to answer his door.
“The general feeling among my peers is not one of panic, but it's one of quiet reflection and a heightened awareness that this doesn't just happen in Columbia and Mexico anymore,” Burns said. He added that he and his peers ask, “'Is this a new era?' I hope not.”
“Maybe it's just an issue that's localized in Kaufman County. Maybe it involved one case, and one person has a 'mad-on' at the DA's office and decided to work up the … chain, or maybe it's something bigger than that; we don't know.
“The one thing it resulted in, in the last few days, is all of us taking a look at security, taking a look at the environment in which we work; because, just like the governor said, we are responsible for locking up some of the meanest, most vicious people in the state,” he said of district attorneys statewide.
While he said there has been sometimes a sense of complacency, this will change in the future. His office recently installed a push-button entry door for security purposes, which he said, “Has made people feel a little bit safer.”