By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Make that 10 witnesses.
He was also a genuine hero to his community. He regularly donated large chunks of off-duty time to disadvantaged youths, coaching football teams in a Pop Warner league, taking kids from the projects fishing and to movies, inviting them to his house, talking to them about staying in school and away from drugs and alcohol. According to Roper's ex-wife Tabatha, who testified that she's had "her share of differences" with Roper, he was a devoted father to his 7-year-old daughter. The former Mrs. Roper, who moved back to Houston after divorcing Quentis in 1993, said he'd sometimes get off work at 4 a.m. and drive straight to Houston to spend the day with his daughter.
Roper mentored youngsters on the force too. Rookies, in particular, were often star-struck by Roper, with his trademark cigar, off-duty black wool cap, and glamorous persona. Roper, in turn, sometimes took an interest in the youngsters, showing them how to "chase dope," inviting them to his apartment after hours, taking them to ball games and strip clubs.
In this fashion, in early '97, he met and befriended a young white officer named Danny Maples. Maples remembers it vividly. "I'd heard about him," Maples says, speaking through a phone at a visitor's booth in the Dallas County jail. "And then, the officer I was riding with on little 't' [training] covered him on an arrest. Afterward, [Roper] turned to me and said, 'I hear you like to chase dope. When you get off training, maybe we can work together.'"
Up close and personal, Maples is compelling: personable, funny, quick. He has about him the pale, obsessive look of ambition more common to newsrooms and law firms than the place where he now bunks. "I play cards at night with Tim Richardson [the University Park accountant convicted last month of murdering his wife]," Maples says with an ironic grin. "They've got Roper just 17 cells away." (Richardson and Roper have since been transferred to state prisons.)
Maples' background couldn't have been more different from Roper's. The son of an electrician and housewife, Maples grew up on a farm just outside Seguin, a town of 20,000 east of San Antonio. Always the smallest boy in his class, he tried to play football until junior high, when he had to settle for hunting, fishing, and schoolwork. A bit of a loner, Danny "never did anything wrong," recalls his sister Tammie Maples Drown. "I mean he's always been a good kid. Straight A's in school. Lieutenant in the National Guard. He's never gotten into trouble."
According to his family and friends, he had two interests: his church and the military. He joined the National Guard as soon as he graduated. As in school, his instructors loved him. Superiors in his chain of command took him under their wing, gave him glowing reviews extolling his organizational skills and his "leadership potential," rating him in the "top 1 percent" of all recruits and saying he should be groomed for a military career.
Instead, on August 4, 1995, after he graduated with an accounting degree from Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, he joined the DPD. He received seven commendations in two years, with no disciplinary actions. Still something of a loner, he once again demonstrated a knack for being beloved by superiors, receiving rave reviews from the men to whom he reported. His peers on the force were somewhat less impressed. A number described him as vainglorious, quick to take all the credit; whenever he would make an arrest, he would boast over the MDT, the computer terminals cops have in their cruisers. Some simply regarded him as a braggart and a teller of tall tales, like the one about the Mexican mob having contracted for a hit on him. Maples, in turn, regarded many of his colleagues as mere doughnut-shop ornaments, lazy and more concerned with their own comfort and safety than with stamping out crime.
And while Maples' number of arrests was impressive, there seems to have been some grumbling about his methods. A number of officers later told investigators they had seen Maples make stops based on nonexistent violations. While Maples was still at Northeast, a handful complained that Maples was racially profiling, targeting Hispanic and black men driving new cars. But those who came forward about illegal stops were quickly shot down by Maples' superiors; one sergeant at Northeast responded that Maples was so good, he wanted all training officers to ride with him "so they could learn how to find dope."
"When you're getting results, producing, you become the golden child," explains Mountin. "Those who produce tend to be given the benefit of the doubt."
It was this reputation for aggressiveness, as well as their common love of the chase, that brought Roper and Maples together. Though Roper downplays their connection, saying they didn't spend that much time together, a number of officers at Northeast recall that, by the spring and summer of '97, Roper and Maples were pals. They often worked calls together, parking alongside each other, sometimes riding together. Unlike some of the goody-two-shoes Maples had met at Northeast, Roper didn't mind lopping off Constitutional corners in the name of making arrests, according to internal police documents. The most cursory review of Roper's cases shows he was illegally busting into apartments and stopping cars without valid permission or probable cause, concocting stories as needed to cover his actions. (Because of these irregularities, two people convicted after a Roper bust have since been released from jail, according to Mountin. Additional cases are under review.) Roper knew how to work the system in ways Maples hadn't dreamed of--and he always handled the paperwork, one reason other cops liked working with him.