Judge orders release of Dallas officer arrested in killings

State & Regional

This photo provided by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office shows Bryan Riser. Authorities say Riser, a Dallas police officer, has been arrested on two counts of capital murder, more than a year and a half after a man told investigators that he kidnapped and killed two people at the officer’s instruction in 2017. (Dallas County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

DALLAS (AP) — A judge on Wednesday ordered the release of a former Dallas police officer who was arrested on capital murder charges for allegedly ordering two killings in 2017 after prosecutors agreed that 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.

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.

Spokespersons for the Dallas Police Department and mayor did not immediately respond to requests for comment after Wednesday’s hearing.

(Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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