By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Instead, Roper seized and handled the cash by himself.
John Leyva was arrested for drug possession.
The next day, Federico Leyva appeared at the jail window inquiring about the $24,000. When Sgt. Marvin Henson checked Roper's arrest report, he found no mention of money. As Henson later told an investigator, "I later asked officer Roper what happened to the money, and he told me that he put it on another [report]." And, indeed, Roper had--although only $12,400 made it to the property room. "I did not check or inquire further," Henson writes in a statement to internal affairs.
On June 25, Roper made yet another traffic stop that led to a stash o' cash. Roper found drugs on the driver and leaned on him to cough up the name of his dealer; within minutes, Roper was at Frank Alvarado's apartment, starting to kick in the door. Rather than lose his door, Alvarado later recalled, he opened it, whereupon Roper "with his gun pointing at me, pushed me to the floor." After making a pregnant Rosalinda Alvarado and her small son sprawl as well, Alvarado swore that Roper "started going through the bed sheet[s] asking 'where are the drugs?'"
He found the drugs, six guns, and $106,000 cash in a "pink party bag."
In an attempt to paper over his illegal entry, affidavits show, Roper took Rosalinda Alvarado into a bedroom alone and handed her a piece of paper. "I then asked officer Roper what it was for and he told me it was to keep my son from going to Child Protective Services. So I signed it," Rosalinda said in a statement to investigators. The form was a consent for the search that had, of course, already occurred. The signing of the form was subsequently "witnessed" by officer Ronnie Keith Anderson, who Mrs. Alvarado swore was in another room.
Frank Alvarado was arrested on drug charges and Rosalinda Alvarado on outstanding tickets; both were taken to Lew Sterrett Justice Center. A day later, the bag of cash showed up at the DPD property room--some $49,000 short.
But Roper's pursuers weren't far behind. Since at least November 1997, DPD's Narcotics Division had been monitoring Roper's reports and noticing some odd patterns. When Roper confiscated drugs, money, or guns, the seized property often did not appear in an arrest report. Instead, Roper would file a separate "found property" report, listing "City of Dallas" as the complainant and the gun or money as the perpetrator. Many of these found property reports contained no cross-reference to an arrest report, making it impossible to tell what arrest, if any, produced the orphaned booty.
"His report writing is not correct," detective Carl Lowe later explained to a grand jury. "It's meant to hide...we have no way of contacting these people because all we got is just a found property [report], City of Dallas [listed] as the complainant. We don't know who lost the gun because we have no way of tracing it...My assumption is he's probably taking some of these guns off people and then letting them go, and then using the money that he's confiscating [at the same time] and putting it in his pocket."
Narcotics noticed something else they thought strange. Not only would Roper fail to indicate in many arrest reports that he had seized cash, but he would wait several hours, sometimes even a day, before filing a separate found property report. The narcs thought they understood what was up; as one put it, Roper was "waiting to see if anyone raised a stink about the money" before deciding how much, or even whether, to pocket the cash. They spotted the Alvarado arrest when it came in and immediately noticed that nearly 24 hours elapsed between the time of the arrest and Roper's "found property" report claiming he recovered just $57,000. The narcs called public integrity, which quickly found Frank and Rosalinda Alvarado, who said Roper had skimmed $49,000.
The more public integrity dug, the more disturbing similarities became apparent. A number of witnesses claimed Roper exhibited "crazy" behavior. Four witnesses swore that, during a shakedown in January 1998, Roper put a gun to a man's head and played Russian roulette after the man refused to give Roper his name. (The witnesses also swore that this happened in front of three other officers, who laughed at Roper's antics.) Another man, Michael Hayes, swore that less than 24 hours later, as Roper was relieving him of $830, Roper pulled out a gun and "began talking crazy, putting the gun to his [Roper's] head and saying didn't I wish there was bullets in it?"
Roper seems to have pursued cash with similar recklessness. On at least four occasions in the summer of 1998, Roper turned up in the middle of the night banging on the door of an elderly Hispanic man, Apolinar Rodriguez, who had drug-dealing relatives: Sandra Rodriguez, his daughter, and Homar Jaime Gracia Jr., his grandson. "He handed my Dad, who doesn't speak or read English, a piece of paper saying if he signed, [Roper] wouldn't take him to jail," recalls Apolinar's daughter, who witnessed several of the incidents. "Then he used it to search the house." Once inside, the family says, Roper would rifle the premises, looking for cash on the theory Homar might be hiding loot at his granddad's.