DALLAS — The Dallas Police Department allowed an officer to continue patrolling for more than a year while investigating whether he ordered two people to be killed because it didn’t want to tip him off, the city’s former police chief said.
U. Renee Hall, who left the department at the end of 2020, said in a statement posted on Twitter late Thursday that police investigators, in collaboration with the FBI, recommended not placing Officer Bryan Riser on administrative leave after he was identified as a person of interest in 2019, NBCDFW reported.
“Taking that action could have compromised the investigation. If Riser had known he was a person-of-interest, DPD might not have been able to bring justice to the families,” Hall said.
Hall’s explanation came hours after Riser, 36, was arrested on two counts of capital murder. Riser was being held Friday on $5 million bond after a court appearance Thursday night, Law Officer reported.
Hall said that when Riser was first identified as a person of interest, police working alongside the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office determined there wasn’t yet enough evidence to charge him.
“It took persistence and months of dedication to accomplish, and the people of Dallas are safe because of it,” Hall said.
Dallas’ new police chief, Eddie Garcia, said that someone came forward in 2019 and told police he kidnapped and killed two people, 31-year-old Liza Saenz and 61-year-old Albert Douglas, on Riser’s instructions in separate 2017 attacks. Garcia said neither killing was connected to Riser’s police work, but that investigators were still trying to determine the motives.
Garcia, who became chief last month, didn’t explain why Riser was arrested nearly 20 months after the witness came forward, and police declined to answer subsequent questions about the timing. However, the length of time to make the case is not unusual in complex homicide investigations.
Both victims were shot and their bodies were dumped in the Trinity River, according to investigators. Saenz’s body was recovered, but Douglas’ wasn’t.
Three men were 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.
During a wide-ranging news conference Friday afternoon, FBI Special Agent Matthew DeSarno, in charge of the agency’s Dallas field office, said the bureau wasn’t responsible for the decision to keep Riser on the job, Dallas Morning News reported.
After two days of back-and-forth statements between Hall and the FBI’s Dallas field office, García said Saturday that it was time to end the finger-pointing about where responsibility lies for the 2019 decision to keep Riser on the job after he’d been named a person of interest in the murders, according to NBCDFW.
In an exclusive interview with The Dallas Morning News on Saturday, García came to the defense of both the department’s investigators and the FBI for their work investigating the officer.
He also said that ultimately it’s the police chief’s decision to put an officer on administrative leave.
”I don’t know what exactly occurred in 2019,” García said. “But we [police chiefs] are responsible for decisions that are made. No one else.”