Official: Aryan Brotherhood plays substantial role in Tarrant crimes

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A Texas prison gang known for extreme violence and illegal drug dealings has deep roots in Tarrant County, a local drug official said Tuesday.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, which some reports have linked to the killing of prosecutors in Kaufman County, plays a substantial role in criminal life in the county and surrounding areas, said Herschel Tebay, commander of the Tarrant County Narcotics Unit.

"We probably run across them on a daily basis," Tebay said Tuesday. "If we run across white males dealing in drugs in Tarrant County, there's a good chance the Aryan Brotherhood is involved in one way or the other."

The Texas Gang Threat Assessment 2012, released this week by the Texas Department of Public Safety, notes that the brotherhood is active in and around Dallas-Fort Worth. The group is among the top three most significant gangs in northeastern Texas, which includes DFW, according to the report.

In November, 34 members were indicted in federal court and arrested as a result of a multi-agency investigation into the gang in North Texas and the Houston area. The Kaufman County district attorney's office, as well as the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office and the Fort Worth and Carrollton police departments were part of the task force.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said his department provided jail space for some of those arrested. Carrollton police said the department provided one full-time officer to the investigation.

"We also had other officers who assisted," Carrollton police officer Jon Sandovall said.

Fort Worth police declined to comment.

Investigators in the Kaufman County killings have declined to say whether the gang is the focus of their efforts. But the killings of District Attorney Mark McLelland, his wife, and assistant district attorney Mark Hasse just months after a DPS bulletin warning of potential retaliation has put the spotlight on the brotherhood.

The Aryan Brotherhood is a nationwide hate organization, first established in 1967 as a prison gang within the San Quentin penitentiary in California. The national group "maintains a working relationship with the Mexican Mafia," according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

The Texas gang was established in the early 1980s to protect white inmates in the state prison system but has since expanded into various criminal activities, authorities said.

The ABT "places its racist ideology secondary to its everyday criminal activities," the DPS report says.

Among the local killings blamed on those with ties to the gang are:

-- The killing of Fort Worth police officer Henry "Hank" Nava, 39, who was shot in the head while trying to enter a mobile home in November 2005. Stephen Lance Heard, who was affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood, was arrested after holding a woman hostage.

-- The slaying of Richard Eugene Warren, 48, of Johnson County in September 2011. Police said three men used a hammer and pipe wrench to kill Warren. Two were allegedly members of the Aryan Brotherhood.

-- The abuse of a woman by ex-convict and Aryan Brotherhood member Ronnie Paul Kappel. He was sentenced to life in prison in May 2012 for knocking his estranged girlfriend unconscious while trying to reconcile with her at a home in Haltom City. Prosecutors said Kappel had abused women for 20 years.

-- The July 2012 killing of Earnest Lackey, whose boasts that he was a member of the gang cost him his life. Three Aryan members are accused of choking and kicking Lackey, hog-tying him with a yellow cord and beating and sexually torturing him with a soldering iron at a home in northwest Tarrant County. The motive for the slaying: The members didn't believe Lackey, according to arrest warrant affidavits.

-- The October 2012 killing of oil executive Robert Dodson, 44, of Fort Worth. One of two men arrested and charged in the slaying is an Aryan Brotherhood member, authorities said. Dodson was robbed, hogtied and strangled with an electrical cord.

Several officials have expressed doubt that the gang could be involved in the Kaufman attacks.

Richard Roper, who served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas from 2004 to 2008, said threats on prosecutors are nothing new but rarely have been serious.

Roper said he never received threats against his life after prosecuting cases involving the Aryan Brotherhood and another violent prison gang, the Texas Syndicate.

Such attacks would be counterproductive and difficult to pull off, he said.

"First, they would have to have the means and the money, and then they would have to deal with the consequences of targeting prosecutors," Roper said. "It would bring more scrutiny on them, which is something they have historically not wanted."

Roper said family violence cases or domestic disputes often stir up the most intense emotions toward lawyers and judges. He pointed to the case of George Lott, who was able to sneak a 9mm handgun into the Tarrant County Courthouse on July 1, 1992. He killed two lawyers and wounded two judges and a third lawyer.

Lott was angry at the judicial system for the way his child custody case was handled.

Roper said he was threatened while prosecuting an unsuccessful 1997 plot by four Wise County Ku Klux Klan members to blow up a Mitchell Energy processing plant near Bridgeport, but nothing came of those threats.

The December retaliation warning was not the first issued to law officers in Texas.

In 2005, officers were warned that the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas may be planning to kill law-enforcement officers after the arrests of several high-ranking members.

"This information can be considered credible; therefore, it is advisable to approach these individuals with caution," said a federal anti-terrorism bulletin dispatched by the Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, a division of the U.S. attorney's regional offices in Tyler.

Staff writer Bill Hanna contributed to this report, which contains information from Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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