Longform

Dirty Cops, Dirty Games

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"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.

A family member called Homar Gracia, who in turn called his lawyer, Frank Perez, and asked him what to do.

"I get a page in the middle of the night from Frank Perez," recalls a narcotics detective. "Mind you, Roper's doing this shit in the middle of an ongoing public integrity investigation, and Roper knows he's under investigation.

"Perez says, 'Roper is holding Homar's grandfather hostage, what do I do?' I said, 'Whatever you do, don't go over there.' So I page [public integrity detective] Diane McLeod, and she pages Roper's sergeant or something. Anyway, the thing gets resolved."

Despite such antics, PI still didn't think they had enough to make a move on Roper. Cases against cops are among the most difficult to win, and there were problems. A few witnesses didn't want to get involved in a case against cops. Because of medical problems, a few witnesses, such as Frank and Rosalinda Alvarado, could not take polygraphs. A few witnesses, like Joshua Jordan, had flunked theirs. And while there were a good number of witnesses who had passed, PI had no evidence of either Roper or Maples living beyond his means. Unfortunately for the detectives, Maples was a saver, not a spender; his bank and credit card records suggested he was the sort who liked to pinch a nickel. And if Quentis Roper was spending money, he was operating strictly on a cash basis. Since their attempted stings had gone south, PI had no marked bills they could trace, no videotape--just the testimony of drug dealers, illegal aliens, and junkies. While the detectives thought these statements trustworthy, who knew what a jury would think?

PI wasn't ready to give up; they called the FBI and asked for help setting up yet another sting. But in retrospect, it seems highly unlikely that either Roper or Maples would have been arrested had Danny Maples not fallen in love.

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Christine Biederman