Daily Record file photo by Nick Castillo
Amendment aims to add SMPD officers to federal lawsuit filed by tased man
An amendment in a lawsuit filed against former San Marcos Police Department Sgt. Ryan Hartman, officer Jacinto Melendrez and the City of San Marcos, stemming from an incident where Hartman tased a San Marcos man, seeks to add two additional SMPD officers.
The lawsuit filed in June 2022 by plaintiff Albian Leyva, 25, in a U.S. District Court, claims Hartman violated Leyva’s civil rights when he was tased during a traffic stop on Jan. 12, 2021. The amendment was filed on Jan. 12, 2023 to add new defendants former officer Jordan Perkins and officer Luke Begwin.
According to the motion to amend, Perkins and Begwin heard Hartman say he was going to fire his taser on Leyva and didn’t intervene to stop him. “They are liable as bystanders and their conduct is important to the existing claims against the City of San Marcos,” the lawsuit states.
“Based on documents obtained in discovery, [Leyva] has identified Officer Jordan Perkins and Officer Luke Begwin as officers standing beside Officers Hartman and Melendrez who knew excessive force would be used on Plaintiff, had the opportunity to stop the misconduct, but who failed to intervene to stop use of force.”
Leyva’s motion for leave to amend his complaint along with any response and any reply, was referred to United States Magistrate Mark Lane for resolution on Jan. 27.
Regarding the potential of Perkins and Begwin's addition to the lawsuit, the City of San Marcos said it couldn’t comment at this time.
Leyva was tased after San Marcos police responded to a local Stripes convenience store at 3936 South Interstate 35 at approximately 2 a.m. on Jan. 12, 2021 for a reported theft. SMPD Cpl. Jason Cormier arrived on scene and saw the alleged vehicle involved leave the convenience store at “great speed,” according to an SMPD memorandum obtained by Caldwell/Hays Examiner and shared with the Daily Record. Cormier later stopped the vehicle at the 300 block of Wonder World Dr. and conducted a high-risk stop, the memorandum stated, adding that Hartman and additional officers arrived on scene to assist Cormier.
During the stop, Leyva exited the vehicle with his hands raised approximately shoulder height. He complied with police commands and later grabbed his phone out of his pocket to possibly record officers, the memo states.
Hartman then told an officer, in a lower volume, to shine their light on Leyva and said, “I’m going to tase this guy.” An officer asks Hartman, “Want to tase him?,” and Hartman replies “Yep,” the memo states.
Hartman — after approximately 15 seconds of no further direction given to Leyva — approaches Leyva, who had both hands above his shoulder, and yells for him to “Come to me now.” A split second later, Hartman deployed a taser on Leyva, not giving him a chance to comply, the memo states. Another officer also used a taser on Leyva.
“At the time, Sgt. Hartman deployed his [Conducted Energy Device] on Leyva, Leyva was not acting or verbalizing aggressively nor displaying any threat,” the memo states. “No lesser means of control were attempted. Leyva offered no verbal non-compliance.”
Leyva was arrested and charged with interference with public duties, a class B misdemeanor. He was released on $4,000 bond on Jan. 12, 2021.
Leyva’s charges were dismissed in June 2022. According to the motion to dismiss, charges were dropped “in the interest of justice.”
Hartman has since been terminated from the San Marcos Police Department for misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.
Perkins is no longer an SMPD officer as of Jan. 24, 2023, according to a personal status report from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shared by Caldwell/Hays Examiner.
The San Marcos City Council is set to discuss the lawsuit in executive session on Tuesday. The city council meets on Feb. 7 for its work session meeting at 3 p.m. The regular meeting begins at 6 p.m. To watch both meetings go to http://san-marcos-tx.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=9.