Ex-Dallas officer accused of ordering two killings released over lack of evidence

Judge Audrey Moorehead decided there is no probable cause to hold Riser in custody

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Former Dallas police officer Bryan Riser has been released after authorities took him into custody late this winter.

theGrio reported Riser was arrested on March 4 on two counts of capital murder after a man told investigators that he kidnapped and killed two people at the officer’s instruction in 2017, authorities said. According to a statement from the police department, the 13-year veteran of the force was brought to the Dallas County Jail for processing. 

The arrest was made in the unconnected killings of Liza Saenz, 31, and Albert Douglas, 61, after a man came forward in August 2019 and claimed the officer hired him to commit the murders.

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Chief Eddie Garcia said during a news conference at the time, investigators were not aware of the motives for the killings, but relayed that they were not related to Riser’s police work.

With his wife, Eboni Samuel Riser, by his side, former Dallas police officer Bryan Riser leaves the Dallas County jail after his release Wednesday. Defense attorney Toby Shook (in mask) is at left. (Tom Fox / Dallas News)

At the press conference, Garcia did not explain why Riser was arrested more than a year after the witness came forward, and police did not immediately respond to questions about the timing or whether the person who implicated Riser has also been charged. The chief stressed that his homicide division and the FBI were still investigating.

“We will not allow anyone to tarnish this badge,” the chief said.

Since the arrest, Riser was kept behind bars until his release on April 7. According to ABC 8, Judge Audrey Moorehead ordered the former officer’s release and ruled there is no probable cause to hold Riser on two counts of capital murder.

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“This department that I used to love, respect, they have disrespected me, they have embarrassed my family all over a make-believe lie,” Riser said at his release. “I was 100% innocent from the get-go.”

Judge Moorehead’s decision was made after a three-hour hearing. Assistant District Attorney Jason Fine and defense attorney Toby Shook extensively questioned lead homicide detective Esteban Montenegro about the allegations.

“We have an obligation — under the U.S. Constitution, under the Texas Consitution, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, under our duty as prosecutors — to see that justice is done,” Fine stated. 

“If we get to a point, in any case, no matter who the defendant is, no matter who the witnesses are, that we feel there is insufficient probable cause, we have to alert the defense and alert the court. We have to do something. We can’t just sit by.”

According to the report, the police acquired arrest warrants based on the word of Emmanuel Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick, a convicted killer, spent two years behind bars before naming Riser as the person who contracted him for the deadly crimes.

One of the victims lived with Riser’s father and Kilpatrick told police that Riser believed she was an informant.

Saenz, the victim in question, was killed on March 10, 2017, hours after leaving court on the day that her husband was convicted of murder. Montenegro was the investigating detective on her husband’s case. Police believe the second victim, Douglas, was killed on Feb. 25, 2017, due to family accounts.

The district attorney’s office released a statement saying that Judge Moorehead’s decision did not mean the investigation was over.

hief Eddie García, center, speaks with media during a press conference regarding the arrest and capital murder charges against Officer Bryan Riser at the Dallas Police Department headquarters on Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Dallas. (Lynda M. González/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

“We look forward to continuing our work with the Dallas Police Department on this or any other cases that are investigated in the city of Dallas,” Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot shared in a written statement.

The department added their own statement, saying, “it is important to note that investigators followed the legal process and presented two probable cause affidavits to a Dallas County District judge for review, and sufficient probable cause was found.

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