By JAKE BLEIBERG Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — A lawyer for the Dallas police officer arrested in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme said his client is innocent of the 2017 killings, does not know one of the victims and that the other victim lived with the officer’s father.
Bryan Riser spoke with investigators for four hours after his arrest last week on two charges of capital murder, said defense attorney Toby Shook. He said the 36-year-old officer denied any role in the separate killings and told investigators that he went to high school with a man who was charged with one of the murders and later accused Riser.
In his first comments since Riser’s arrest, Shook pointed to “several red flags” in what he called the “strange case” against an officer who continued to patrol Dallas for more than a year and a half after he was implicated in the killings of a man and a woman.
“He’s driving around, patrolling, doing his job every day with a gun, without incident for nearly two years,” Shook told The Associated Press. “If you really thought he was involved in this why wouldn’t you move on him in 2019?”
Riser, who remained jailed Monday on a $5 million bond, was arrested Thursday and accused of having offered to pay three men to kidnap and kill 31-year-old Liza Saenz and 61-year-old Albert Douglas. Douglas was reported missing in 2017 and his body hasn’t been found. Saenz’s body was was pulled from a Dallas river that March with several bullet wounds.
Authorities said one the men charged in Saenz’s killing implicated Riser in 2019, raising questions about why he continued to patrol during the nearly 20-month investigation.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on Monday formed a City Council committee to investigate that question and how the case was handled. The seven-member committee is empowered to subpoena witnesses and compel city employees to turn over records.
“This is an awful situation, and the public deserves answers regarding who knew what, when they knew it, and why the officer remained on active duty,” Johnson said in a statement.
Police have not explained Riser’s connections to the victims and said his motive is unknown.
Shook said that Riser does not know Douglas and that there’s no evidence connecting them. Riser does, however, know Saenz because she had been roommates with officer’s father “at some point in time,” the lawyer said
Shook said his client “didn’t have a relationship with” Saenz and that Byron Riser, 58, was too upset by his son’s arrest to give an interview.
The elder Riser pleaded guilty in 2018 to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and was sentenced to five years in prison. He’s currently at a residential re-entry center in Texas on community supervision, Shook said.
Saenz was an “informant,” according to the affidavit for Riser’s arrest. The document does not elaborate on what that means. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said Thursday the killings were not related to Riser’s police work.
Three men were previously charged with capital murder in the killing of Saenz: Kevin Kidd, 32; Emmanuel Kilpatrick, 34; and Jermon Simmons, 38.
Kilpatrick is serving life in prison for the killings of a father and son. Kidd and Simmons are jailed on capital murder charges stemming from the killings of Saenz and the father and son. Simmons is also charged in another death.
The man who implicated Riser — who police did not name — told investigators he was involved in burglaries with the officer when they were both young, according to the affidavit.
Shook said Riser knew Kilpatrick in high school, when they worked together at a skating rink, and that they reconnected in 2017 after running into each other at a donut shop.
“He certainly wasn’t involved in committing crimes,” the lawyer said.
An attorney for Kilpatrick did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Shook also took issue with cell phone location data described in the affidavit as corroborating the witnesses’ account that Riser drove him around to point out the people the officer wanted killed. The defense attorney said it would have been normal for Riser to drive through the area where he then lived and work. He questioned how precise the location data was and why it didn’t lead to an arrest in 2019.
“The evidence is coming from men who were charged with capital murder” and other crimes, Shook said. “They have all the reason in the world to lie and try to gain an advantage by trying to implicate a police office.” __ Associated Press reporter Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.