KAUFMAN, Texas - Law enforcement officials already on edge after the killings of two Texas prosecutors and a Colorado prison director got more reasons to worry Wednesday, as a West Virginia sheriff was fatally shot, and here in this northeastern Texas community, authorities said they arrested a local man for threatening another county official.
It is uncertain whether the killings are connected or merely coincidental events in dangerous professions.
Authorities here said the arrest of Nick Morale, 56, who phoned in a threat to a police tip line, was not related to the killings of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, over the weekend, or that of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse on Jan. 31.
Still, the news has heightened alarm among law enforcement officials, especially in this rural county, where judges are being escorted by armed guards to and from work, sheriff's cars are parked outside the new district attorney's house and secretaries in the county courthouse have been given bulletproof vests.
"I'm not going to live in fear," Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood said Tuesday. "But I'm not stupid either. We're being very careful about security for all officials, not just judges."
The killings of McLelland and Hasse have drawn several dozen FBI agents, as well as U.S. Marshals and Texas Rangers, to the area to assist the local sheriff's office. The FBI sent a Computer Analysis Response Team, a mobile forensics laboratory.
It is unclear whether investigators have any strong leads. One focus has been the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a violent prison gang, although some federal law enforcement officials in recent interviews have said making such a connection is premature.
In West Virginia, Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, known for his tough stand against the drug trade, was fatally shot Wednesday in the place where he usually parks his car for lunch, about a block from the county courthouse.
Over the past three years, targeted attacks on law enforcement officials have spiked at 15, according Glenn McGovern, an author and investigator for the district attorney in Santa Clara County, Calif.