DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — A former Dallas police officer was arrested and charged with murder for allegedly ordering two killings in 2017, but on Wednesday a judge ordered his release after prosecutors agreed they don't have enough evidence to move forward with the case.
After listening to more than three hours of testimony by a Dallas homicide detective, Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Audrey Moorehead said there was no probable cause and ordered the release of Bryan Riser. The 13-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department was fired after his colleagues took him into custody in March, when he was charged in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme.
During Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors disagreed with the police detective's assessment that they had enough evidence to prosecute.
"Where we stand as a district attorney's office right now today, we do not feel there's sufficient probable cause for this case," Dallas County prosecutor Jason Fine told the judge.
A spokesman for the Dallas County sheriff's office said Riser would be released once the jail receives the paperwork for his case from the court.
Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot issued the following statement after the ruling --
"As this office stated during an examining trial earlier today, there is insufficient probable cause in the two capital murder cases against former Dallas police officer Bryan Riser.
Because of this office's obligations under the law, we alerted the defense team and the judge of our opinion that there currently is insufficient corroboration of co-defendant statements and accomplice testimony to prosecute the case.
This does not mean the investigation is closed. 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."
Riser left the Dallas County Jail at around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday and said some brief words before leaving. "This department that I used to love, respect... they have embarrassed me, they embarrassed my family..." he said.
Riser, 36, was arrested in the unconnected killings of Liza Saenz, 31, and Albert Douglas, 61, after a man came forward in August 2019 and told police he had kidnapped and killed them at Riser's direction, police Chief Eddie Garcia said last month. The former officer's lawyer, Toby Shook, has maintained his client is innocent and said that the evidence against Riser is little more than the word of a man already convicted in other killings.
Authorities have alleged that Riser offered to pay three men to kidnap and kill Douglas and Saenz. The men were later charged with capital murder and one of them came forward and implicated Riser in 2019, according to an affidavit for the officer's arrest.
Shook previously said Riser knew one of the men charged in Saenz's killing, Emmanuel Kilpatrick, from high school and that they reconnected in 2017 after a chance encounter. Kilpatrick, 34, is now serving life in prison for the killings of a father and son.
The defense attorney described Kilpatrick as someone who has "all the reason in the world to lie and try to gain an advantage by trying to implicate a police officer."
In announcing Riser's arrest, Garcia had said the officer became a "suspect" in 2019 and sought to distinguish that from being "a person of interest." But Dallas detectives took an interest in Riser as early as 2017. In September of that year, a detective said in court that Riser was the "subject" of an investigation into the killing of Saenz, according to a transcript of the proceeding.
The detective also said Saenz lived with Riser's father and that before her death she had been a witness in another murder case. The testimony came during a detention hearing in a federal drug case against Riser's dad, Byron Riser.
Shook said Saenz lived with the elder Riser at one point, but that his client "didn't have a relationship with" her and didn't know Douglas.
The Dallas Police Department responded to the judge's decision on Wednesday, saying that the investigation remains open and ongoing. The department said Riser's termination was not based solely on the criminal investigation, but also for "administrative violations."
"If he is found to not have committed a crime, then he has the right to get his job back, if he chooses to go down that path," Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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