What to Know
- Former officer has been released from county jail; capital murder charges dropped.
- Prosecutors said they did not have the evidence to move forward in the case.
- Investigation remains open; charges may again be filed in the future.
A former Dallas police officer arrested on capital murder charges and fired last month has been released following a preliminary hearing Wednesday where the charges against him were dropped.
Former officer Bryan Riser had been accused of ordering three men, Kevin Kidd, Emmanuel Kilpatrick and Jermon Simmons, to kill Albert Douglas and Lisa Saenz in 2017.
During a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning, Dallas County Criminal Court Judge Audrey Moorehead agreed with prosecutors for the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and said there was insufficient evidence against Riser to support a probable cause in the case.
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“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. 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," said prosecutor Jason Fine, during the hearing.
Riser, who has maintained his innocence since the charges were announced, let out an audible sigh Wednesday when Moorehead announced her decision, according to our partners at The Dallas Morning News.
When he was released Wednesday afternoon, Riser made a brief statement to the media before getting into a car and leaving.
“This department I used to love and respect, they have disrespected me," Riser said. "They've embarrassed me and they've embarrassed my family all over make believe lies. I was 100% innocent from the get go. I just want to go be with my family."
Also in court Wednesday was Riser's wife and brother, who is a Dallas County Sheriff's Deputy.
“The truth is finally coming out and that is what we are here for, the truth," said Eboni Samuel-Riser, Bryan Riser's wife. " DPD owes us an apology at this point," she continued.
"I would hope this investigation comes under review and how this decision was made so quickly to arrest him, which triggered this whole thing," said Riser's attorney Toby Shook.
Dallas County Prosecutors repeatedly stated there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Riser and that they had been in communication with Dallas Police about the case and the lack of probable cause since 2019.
"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," said Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "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."
Should more evidence be obtained in the case, it could once again move forward.
"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," Creuzot said.
Dallas police said they respect the judge's decision, but that they followed the legal process and presented two probable cause affidavits to a district judge for review and that sufficient probable cause was found at that time.
"The detectives assigned to this investigation are committed to seeing justice being served for the victims and their families and we fully support their efforts. The investigation remains open and ongoing," Dallas police said.
In a statement, police also said Riser's termination was not solely based on the criminal investigation but for administrative violations.
Tuesday's court appearance was a preliminary hearing for the judge to look over the evidence that's available so far and decide whether it's solid enough for this case to move forward.
The first witness called in the hearing was Dallas police homicide detective Esteban Montenegro. He talked about the events that led to Riser's arrest, which included statements from the three men and how Dallas police were able to corroborate those statements with information from video surveillance, telephone records, jail calls and other evidence.
He said it all started as a plot to rob drug houses for profit but instead, the three men were allegedly hired to murder Douglas and Saenz.
The family of Douglas was also in court and was visibly upset following the ruling.
“I don’t feel like justice was done up in that courtroom, that’s all I got to say," said Charles Frazier, Douglas' cousin.
At times Tuesday morning, Montenegro seemed combative with the prosecution as they tried to confirm details to help lead this case to trial.
A probable cause affidavit was updated just two days ago with more details, alleging that lied about a tipster in another double-homicide case. Click here to read more on the updated findings in the affidavit.
During a news conference in March, Dallas police officials said Riser first became a suspect in the Saenz and Douglas case in 2019. However, records later showed the Dallas officer was under investigation in 2017, longer than police previously said.
Riser was allowed to continued to patrol the city while under investigation for the 2017 killings. This led to calls for concern by the city of Dallas following the announcement of the investigation.
NBC 5's Jack Highberger, Alanna Quillen and Frank Heinz contributed to this report. Check back with this article for more updates on Riser's court hearing.