Records show she twice called DeSoto police in 2015 alleging Bryan Riser acted violently
A former Dallas police officer under investigation in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme threatened to kill his wife and beat her in the street as their children watched, she testified during recent child custody proceedings.
Her testimony comes after the March arrest and firing of officer Bryan Riser on capital murder charges tied to two killings in 2017. A judge later dismissed the charges after prosecutors said investigators submitted insufficient evidence. The woman, who divorced Riser in 2015, is now seeking full custody of their three children, citing his arrest and what she described as a pattern of family violence.
The Dallas Morning News is not naming the woman because she said she fears for her safety. She moved away from Dallas and agreed to give Riser primary custody of the children in 2018 because she wanted to stay “alive for them,’’ she said.
“He told me that he would kill me if I were to take the children out of the Metroplex,’’ the ex-wife testified in a May 20 court hearing. “I had no other choice. It was for my safety.’ “
Riser, a 13-year veteran, has denied any role in the murders. During the custody hearing, he disputed his ex-wife’s allegations that he abused her. He said there was an altercation after she pushed him.
“I do not have any domestic disturbance on record,” Riser said of her accusations.
But police logs obtained by The News contradict that assertion. In late 2015 when the couple lived in DeSoto, officers for the Dallas suburb responded to at least two calls she made alleging Riser acted violently, records show. Two days after the second call, she filed for divorce, according to court filings. No criminal charges were filed.
The new disclosures broaden the extent of violence Riser is alleged to have committed between 2015 and 2018, feeding concerns about why the department allowed him to stay on patrol until early this year. The ex-wife is the second woman to allege Riser abused her.
The new information also raises questions about whether Dallas police officials were made aware of Riser’s ex-wife’s calls to DeSoto police.
Dallas Deputy Chief Monique Alex said in an interview with The News on Thursday that Riser’s internal affairs history reflects no record that he was investigated in 2015 for domestic violence.
But Riser was responsible for reporting such allegations to supervisors, Alex said. Had his command known about the incidents, they would have been investigated, she said. Departmental policy states no off-duty officers should “cause or escalate” a disturbance or police incident.
Riser’s defense attorney Toby Shook acknowledged to The News that Riser did not inform his supervisors of the calls. “He did not cause an incident,” Shook said.
The attorney said the police “interviewed Bryan and his wife and determined no crime had been committed.”
Dallas police do not have an agreement with DeSoto to share information about calls alleging family violence involving police officers. The International Association of Chiefs of Police urges neighboring police agencies to share such information to hold officers accountable.
In her testimony, Riser’s former wife said she sent a lengthy email to former Police Chief U. Reneé Hall about Riser’s behavior, but delivered it late last year – shortly before Hall stepped down in December. She said she did not hear back. She did not explain why she reached out to the chief at that time.
Attempts to reach the ex-wife and Hall on Thursday were unsuccessful.
As early as 2017, Riser was the subject of a police investigation into the murder of Liza Saenz, 31, who lived with Riser’s father around that time, records show. That year Riser also was arrested in Dallas for allegedly assaulting a girlfriend, who also did not press charges, according to police records.
It’s unclear whether anyone at the Dallas police department was made aware of the calls to DeSoto police.
DeSoto police chief Joe Costa refused to answer several questions from The News about whether his agency alerted Dallas police to the incidents and how his officers investigated the calls.
“I have nothing to say about Riser or his situation,” Costa said in an email.
A big break in the murder cases emerged in 2019 when three men were being prosecuted for the murders. One of the killers told authorities in August of that year that Riser had orchestrated the killings of Saenz and Albert Douglas, 61, also a Dallas resident.
But Riser’s arrest this year sparked questions about why the investigation took so long and why he was allowed to keep working on patrol.
At the time of the arrest Hall told The News that police, in consultation with the FBI, decided to keep Riser on the job to avoid tipping him off that they were investigating him for murder. An FBI official later disputed that assertion.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson formed a committee to examine the police’s handling of the case. And The News reported that detectives in 2017 had been investigating Riser in connection with Saenz’s murder, according to testimony in a federal court hearing that year for Riser’s father who was convicted of dealing heroin and other drugs.
Then, a twist: during an April court hearing to determine whether probable cause existed to keep Riser jailed on the charges, the Dallas County District Attorney’s office argued that there was not enough evidence to proceed with the case. Prosecutors, who usually side with police in such hearings, flagged a discrepancy in the arrest warrant. The homicide detective inaccurately wrote that cellphone records placed Riser near the scene when the victims were killed.
A judge ordered Riser’s release that day. In a news conference the former officer called the case against him a lie. García pledged to keep investigating.
Riser’s personnel file and other law enforcement documents obtained by The News show Riser was under three internal affairs investigations by 2017. He also was arrested for allegedly slamming a girlfriend to the floor then kicking her and dragging her across a room.
Riser told investigators that she struck him first and he grabbed her arm to get her to leave. Riser was placed on administrative leave. The assault case was eventually dismissed, court records show.
But the former officer’s custody battle with his ex-wife shows he had brushes with the law over reports of domestic violence at least two years earlier.
Repeated allegations of family violence should be taken seriously, said Michael Scott, a clinical professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
“Those are very big red flags to suggest an officer may not have the emotional control to be a police officer,’’ Scott said. “If you can’t control yourself in your own family, odds are high that you won’t be able to do it in the streets.’’
It is unclear whether Riser’s supervisors or internal affairs investigators searched publicly available police-call records in DeSoto for evidence of other intimate partner violence after his 2017 arrest.
Calls for help
The DeSoto call logs reflect a series of conflicts between Riser and his then-wife in 2015 and 2016, ranging from Riser’s calls requesting that police monitor their child custody exchanges to his wife’s complaints of violence.
The records contain only brief descriptions of officers’ contacts with the couple. No detailed narratives or incident reports could be located, police told The News.
On Oct. 13, 2015, officers were twice called to the Risers’ DeSoto home. First, Riser’s ex-wife called 911 to report that her husband “put his hands’’ on her, the logs state. After police responded, Riser told an officer that she had hit him, and he pushed her off.
Before police left, the couple changed their stories to say that they were merely in a heated argument but nobody was assaulted, the logs state.
Later that evening, Riser called police alleging that his wife had left their children alone at their house. After the officers responded, the kids told them they had not been left home alone.
The logs note that Riser’s wife approached an officer outside the home to say that her husband had indeed assaulted her earlier. The officer noted in the log that he saw no marks on her.
A month later Riser’s wife again called police. She reported that her “estranged husband busted a window in a master bedroom,’’ according to a log dated Nov. 12, 2015. She said she was at home with her three children and that Riser was still on the premises, and may have a “pistol.’’ She also told them he was a Dallas police officer.
No other details were provided. It’s unclear whether officers or a victim advocate followed up with her as a result of those 2015 calls.
Domestic violence experts say spouses or intimate partners of officers can be particularly reluctant to report abuse and can retract their allegations fearing retaliation or the loss of income if the officer is fired or prosecuted.
Scott, the criminology expert, said such a dynamic should be a key consideration for investigators who examine domestic violence allegations against their law-enforcement colleagues.
“It’s doubly complex in cases involving officers,’’ Scott said. “The unintended consequence is that it raises the stakes very high for the victim. That can further exacerbate violence in the home.”
‘He abused me really bad’
In the recent custody hearing in 255th Family District Court, Riser’s ex-wife acknowledged that she called DeSoto police repeatedly to report her husband’s abuse.
“He abused me really bad physically,” she said. “And he actually beat me in front of the children. They saw that. They stood in front of a window and watched us in the street while he beat me in the street.”
She testified that her children have suffered psychologically and need therapy. They recently learned of their father’s arrest on Tik Tok. And they are getting asked about their dad while at school, she said.
Around 2015, Riser also threatened a man she was dating, pulling out a gun, she said.
She did not name the boyfriend or say whether the incident was reported to police.
Riser denied ever threatening a boyfriend. “I never pulled no gun out on her boyfriend.”
Riser’s current wife testified in the hearing that he had not acted violently toward her in the two years since they married.
The ex-wife testified she has been interviewed by the FBI as well as Dallas police investigators but did not say when the meetings took place or what was discussed.
Asked by her attorney in the custody hearing whether the investigation into the murders was over, she responded, “Not at all. Not from what they’re telling me? No, sir. They’re not done at all.”
Judge Scott Beauchamp granted her temporary custody of the children. He also ordered a family court specialist to interview the children and report back to him.
Riser’s attorney in the custody case, John Nwosu, told The News in a statement Thursday that the ex-wife’s claims were outlandish and she simply wants to gain an advantage in the custody battle.
Another hearing in the custody case is set for Friday afternoon.