Longform

Dirty Cops, Dirty Games

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The way Maples tells it, he was haunted by Dostoyevskian guilt, constantly fighting the urge to confess. He claims the turning point was Rafael Lopez, the illegal alien who cried when Roper and Maples shook him down at a traffic stop in April 1998. Lopez, who had just been paid for his work on a construction crew, begged to be left at least $100 to get from the border to his home in central Mexico. According to his statement, both Roper and Maples refused.

"I felt awful," Maples says. "That's why I stopped his friends" and gave them contact numbers for the jail--so they could reach their buddy Lopez--as well as public integrity.

There is also some indication that, during the arrest, Roper and Maples had words. Roper says Maples wanted to arrest Lopez and he didn't; Maples says he wanted to return Lopez's money, but Roper told him no. When they arrived at the jail with Lopez, Maples later told investigators, "I [said] we agreed on drug dealers, this kid is not a drug dealer, this is not right."

Raskolnikov or not, Dallas police Internal Affairs Division documents do suggest that, during this period, Maples-the-thief was often seized by an irresistible impulse to shoot himself in the foot. During another April heist, for example, Maples showed a security guard the $1,600 he pocketed--a move that virtually guaranteed he would be nabbed. "I would do things like that," Maples says now. "I was subconsciously trying to get caught, to get out of a bad situation, when I didn't have the courage to do it myself."

Maples later told investigators that Roper had been pressuring him to recruit more officers and to "produce"--that is, pull off his own thefts and share the proceeds with Roper. Public integrity and internal affairs documents show that, through the middle of May 1998, Maples had pulled off exactly two of his own thefts. To get Roper off his back, Maples says, he'd begun making up tales about thefts and simply tithing to Roper from money Roper had previously given him.

Then came the public integrity sting, which Maples and Roper spotted. The May 21 setup seems to have helped Maples locate his misplaced cojones; shortly afterward, Maples claims, he finally got up the gumption to tell Roper he "didn't want to do it any more."

In response, Maples says, Roper urged him to stay "in the game." And just 10 days after the failed sting, Maples pulled another heist, an amateurish and astonishingly wishy-washy job. In the wee hours of May 31, 1998, a 20-year-old kid named Joshua Jordan and several friends pulled into the driveway of Jordan's mother's East Dallas house. He had just gotten out of the car when he noticed a couple of figures around the corner. Jordan, who was packing, later said he thought they were about to break into his mother's house; he exchanged a round of gunfire with the dark figures and went inside to call police.

Unfortunately, the figures Jordan shot at were the police, investigating a burglary at a nearby store. Within minutes, Jordan was on the ground and the premises was a sea of blue uniforms. Maples was one of several officers who arrested Jordan; Maples patted him down and found his wallet, which had $650 tucked inside.

At least two cops on the scene later recalled seeing Maples with Jordan's wallet, and Maples says he commented aloud that Jordan deserved to have his money confiscated for shooting at a cop. When no one followed up, Maples says, he simply pocketed Jordan's cash. (If any cops overheard Maples' comment, they never told internal affairs. Maples claims one cop later assured him, "Don't worry, I didn't give you up" to internal affairs.)

Maples apparently tried one other interesting tactic he had picked up somewhere along the way. Joining several cops searching the bushes along the perimeter of the scene, Maples emerged carrying a purple Crown Royal bag. As officer Jason Sibley later recalled, "Officer Maples took me to the rear of the squad car and showed me a Crown Royal tie bag. The bag was in the trunk, and he told me it contained some drugs, and that it belonged to the suspect." Everyone took Maples at his word.

It seems that Maples later decided the drugs weren't needed. Jordan was charged with aggravated assault of a police officer, and the Crown Royal bag never made it down to the property room.

After that, Maples says, he flat-out refused to steal. And when Roper finally saw he couldn't lure Maples back "into the game," Maples says Roper tried to buy his silence.



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Christine Biederman