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Dallas Officer Ordered Man To Kill Two People, Police Say

A Dallas police officer has been arrested on charges that he ordered an acquaintance to kill two people in 2017.

Officer Bryan Riser, 36, was charged with capital murder in the deaths of a 61-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman, Dallas Police Chief Eddie García said at a Thursday media briefing.

The body of Liza Saenz, which had multiple gunshot wounds, was found on March 1o, 2017, in an area river. The family of the second victim, Albert Douglas, reported him missing the previous month. His remains were never found, the police chief said.

García, who was sworn in as head of the department in February, called the two killings unconnected and said that while authorities had no motive, they were both linked to Riser's "off-duty" life. He added that investigators would nonetheless be examining his arrest record and "looking at the activity he conducted as a police officer."

According to The Dallas Morning News, Saenz's mother, Mary Hodge, acknowledged Thursday that her daughter and Riser had known one another, but that she didn't know the extent of their relationship.

García said his predecessor, Reneé Hall, was initially briefed on the allegations against Riser in 2019, after a man accused in the murder of Saenz came forward to implicate the officer.

The police chief did not offer an explanation as to why it took so long for Riser — a 13-year veteran of the force — to be arrested. García also acknowledged that the Riser had continued in his job patrolling the city's streets as the internal investigation continued.

The Morning News spoke with Hall, who said Riser became a "person of interest" in the killings when the witness came forward. However, when she was made aware of the allegations two years ago, there was not enough evidence to arrest the officer, she said.

Hall told the newspaper that in consultation with federal law enforcement, a "strategic decision" had been made not to place Riser on administrative leave in order to prevent him from covering his tracks or otherwise compromising the investigation.

In September 2017, three men were arrested and charged with the murder of Saenz. One of them later told authorities that Riser offered him $3,500 to kidnap and kill Douglas, according to a police affidavit, which he allegedly paid. Riser later approached the man again, offering to pay him $6,000 to kill Saenz, who he described as an "informant." That money was not paid before the man was arrested, the affidavit states.

Riser is on administrative leave pending an internal affairs division investigation, but the department was moving quickly to terminate him, García said.

"This individual has no business wearing this uniform," he said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.