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Former Dallas police officer files civil lawsuit against Dallas homicide detective

Bryan Riser alleges that detective Esteban Montenegro lied in court affidavits that wrongfully led to his arrest. The charges were later dropped against Riser.

DALLAS — A former Dallas police officer filed suit Thursday against a Dallas homicide detective, alleging that the detective wrongfully orchestrated his arrest on capital murder charges last year.

The charges against Bryan Riser were dropped last April after a judge found there was no evidence on him to hold him. Riser is appealing his firing. 

Detective Esteban Montenegro is currently on administrative leave. WFAA has previously reported that he is under criminal investigation over allegations that he perjured himself and tampered with records.

The lawsuit filed against Montenegro alleges the “arrest was based entirely on the uncorroborated statements of a person directly linked to five murders.”

“Montenegro knew the witness was entirely unreliable for a number of reasons, including that his statements were flatly contradicted by those of another co-conspirator,” the suit said, “and because a fellow police officer had directly informed Montenegro that the witness was unreliable and had a habit of deceiving law enforcement.”

Warrants for Riser’s arrest showed police based much of their case on the word of Emmanuel Kilpatrick, a convicted killer.

WFAA has previously reported that in late 2019, the district attorney's office had told Montenegro that there was no probable cause to arrest Riser.

More than a year later, not a single piece of additional evidence had been found,” the suit said. “Nonetheless, Montenegro went ahead with the arrest that he had already been told was unsupported by probable cause.”

The lawsuit highlights a number of problems with the case that WFAA has previously reported on, namely that the original arrest warrant affidavit falsely stated that cell tower analysis placed Riser and his squad car in the area of the murder at the time they were committed. 

During an extraordinary three-hour hearing last April, the detective attributed the error in the original warrant to a “cut and paste error.”

“I made a mistake,” Montenegro testified during the hearing.

Credit: Eboni Samuel Riser
Dallas Police officer Bryan Riser in a squad car.

The hearing was also extraordinary because the Dallas County DA’s office took the position that there was no probable cause and that Riser should not have been arrested.

At the conclusion of last year's hearing, the judge dismissed the charges. By then, Riser had spent more than a month in jail.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s office has recused itself from the investigation into Montenegro’s actions. The Kaufman County District Attorney’s office has been appointed to oversee the case.

Messina Madson, an attorney representing Montenegro, has previously said her client has complete faith that the justice system will clear him.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia announced Riser’s arrest on March 4, 2021. At the time, the chief said investigators developed evidence that the 12-year veteran paid to have two people killed in 2017. He fired Riser a few days later.

Garcia later ordered a criminal investigation into Montenegro’s actions after the case against Riser fell apart.

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