A former Texas police officer is suing his ex-colleague for fabricating a case against him for capital murder, according to lawsuit documents obtained by Atlanta Black Star.
Bryan Riser was an officer with the Dallas Police Department until he was accused and arrested for paying a man to kidnap, kill two people and throw their bodies in a river.
However, the district attorney abandoned the case, finding no probable cause for the charges.
Riser alleges Dallas Detective Esteban Montenegro arrested him in March 2021 based on the “uncorroborated statements” of a person who admitted to the 2017 murders and has a reputation for lying to law enforcement.
He presented the same evidence during his testimony in Riser’s probable cause hearing that is known as an examining trial. The charges against Riser were dropped right after the hearing.
Riser is seeking damages for his suffering, mental pain, loss of wages and freedom and legal fees. Riser, a police officer for 13 years, spent a month in jail. The story also made national headlines. He is still fighting to get his job back.
“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. “I was 100 percent innocent from the get-go.”
Riser alleges in the claim filed on May 5 that Montenegro violated his Fourth Amendment rights to liberty. The complaint accuses Montenegro of lying on the affidavit to obtain the warrant used to put Riser behind bars.
Montenegro is now under investigation for perjury and records tampering.
The lawsuit says the arrest affidavit contained numerous “misrepresentations and omissions.” Riser’s lawyer said it was an “ill-conceived, targeted investigation” of his client.
Montenegro said cell tower data showed Riser’s squad car was in the area when the murders were committed, but then the detective said in Riser’s examining trial that it was a “copy and paste error.”
Montenegro also wrote in the affidavit that Emmanuel Kilpatrick, who implicated Riser in the murders, provided text messages to prove he was involved. After Kilpatrick and his accomplices killed Albert Douglas, Montenegro said he sent a message to Riser with a co-defendant’s address.
The message was to arrange payment for completing the job, but it was sent four days before Douglas went missing, the lawsuit says.
Kilpatrick also told Montenegro that Riser used a black SUV to drive him to an area where Douglas would be, but Riser does not own a black vehicle, the lawsuit says.
Although they took opposite paths, Kilpatrick and Riser grew up together. It made Riser an easy scapegoat for the murders, the lawsuit says. Kilpatrick, who is currently facing five murder charges, contacted Riser multiple times to get the officer’s help with “situations that arose in” Kilpatrick’s “job as a security guard.”
Kilpatrick said Riser offered $6,000 to kill Liza Saenz and $3,500 for Douglas. He was promised that prosecutors would reduce his charges from capital murder to murder with the possibility of parole for the information on Riser.
Saenz’s body was discovered in the Trinity River in Dallas on March 10, 2017. Douglas’ body was never found. He has been missing since February 2017.
Saenz was at the murder trial of Estevan Lara the same day she was killed, the lawsuit says. When Lara was found guilty, he lashed out at Saenz because he thought she would pressure witnesses not to testify, according to the court document.
“The fact that she was killed later that day strongly suggests a connection to Lara,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit alleges that Kilpatrick was known for calling the police department, posing as an informant or bounty hunter to get information to rob drug dealers. The lawsuit alleges he told Montenegro that he urged Riser to label him as an informant to escape suspicion for two of the five murder charges he now faces.
“Such an admission of dishonesty directly undermines Kilpatrick’s credibility, but Defendant ignored it,” Riser’s legal claim says.
Montenegro’s interview with Kilpatrick’s co-defendant, Kevin Kidd, also contradicted his claims, the court document shows. Kidd did not pick Riser in the lineup, and he could not identify the color of the SUV. Kidd also said he did not see money exchange and remembered the meeting related to Saenz’s contract killing as a gas stop.
Montenegro is currently on administrative leave. His attorney said he “was acting in good faith at all times,” and she is confident he will be cleared of wrongdoing.