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The charges against a former Dallas police officer accused of orchestrating two murders have been thrown out more than a month after his initial arrest.
Bryan Riser walked out of jail a free man Wednesday afternoon after Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Audrey Moorehead agreed with prosecutors that there wasn't enough probable cause to support the capital murder charges against him.
“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 after his release, according to local station WFAA. “I was 100% innocent from the get-go.”
Tasha Tsiaperas, the community and media relations manager for the district attorney’s office told Oxygen.com that although a judge ruled there was “not probable cause to hold Riser in jail” at this time, the case remains “under investigation.”
Prosecutor Jason Fine said in court Wednesday that the state lacked the evidence necessary to support the charges.
“We have an obligation — under the U.S Constitution, under the Texas Constitution, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, under our duty as prosecutors — to see that justice is done,” he said in statement obtained by Oxygen.com. “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.”
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot elaborated on the prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges in the statement, saying there is currently “insufficient corroboration of co-defendant statements and accomplice testimony” to prosecute the case.
The decision directly contradicted testimony provided by lead homicide Det. Esteban Montenegro given during a three-hour hearing on the case Tuesday.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia announced the capital murder charges against Riser in a press conference March 4, accusing the former police officer of hiring someone to kidnap and kill Albert Douglas, 61, and Liza Saenz, 31.
Saenz, who had reportedly once lived with Riser’s father, was found dead in the Trinity River in southwest Dallas on March 10, 2017 with “several” gunshot wounds, Garcia said. She had also been a witness in another murder case, local station KTVT reports.
Authorities have said Riser allegedly hired three men to kidnap and kill the 31-year-old, one of whom later came forward and implicated Riser in 2019.
Emmanuel Kilpatrick, one of the men charged in the killing of Saenz, is currently serving life in prison for two unrelated murders. He told investigators that Riser had hired him to carry out the hit, according to arrest warrants obtained by WFAA. He said the pair had gone to high school together and later reconnected.
Kilpatrick alleged that Riser had also hired him to kill Douglas, who was reported missing by his family in February 2017.
His body has never been recovered, Garcia said.
However, Riser’s defense attorney Toby Shook has continued to question Kilpatrick’s credibility, saying he has “all the reason in the world to lie and try to gain an advantage by trying to implicate a police officer.”
Garcia said in a press conference Thursday that he was “disappointed,” by the court’s decision to drop the charges.
“There’s no question, I am not going to lie about that,” he said, adding that police “still feel” they have probable cause in the case.
“We’re obviously going to respect yesterday’s decision,” he said. “We’re going to continue to thoroughly investigate this case.”
Garcia said the judge’s decision will not change Riser’s employment status with the department, citing “other issues” that had also led to his termination. He had worked for the department since 2008.
Riser’s brother, Byron Riser Jr., who is a sheriff’s deputy, attended the hearing with his wife Eboni Samuel Riser. The couple said they were pleased with the judge’s decision to free Riser.
“We’re so excited, we’re so happy because the truth is finally coming out and that’s what we’re here for, is the truth,” Eboni told WFAA.
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