Daily Record photo by Nick Castillo
Charges dropped against San Marcos man suing former SMPD sergeant, city
A San Marcos man who was tased by a former San Marcos Police Department sergeant in January 2021 has had his charges dropped.
Albian Leyva, 24, was arrested and charged with interference with public duties, a class B misdemeanor, after a traffic stop on Jan. 12, 2021, where he was tased by former SMPD Sgt. Ryan Hartman.
Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau confirmed that charges were dismissed against Leyva. According to the motion to dismiss, charges were dropped “in the interest of justice.”
Leyva filed suit against Hartman and the City of San Marcos in a U.S. District Court, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was tased during the traffic stop.
Rebecca Webber, Leyva’s lawyer, said the Hays County District Attorney’s Office’s decision to dismiss charges helps prove Al’s claims made in the lawsuit.
“First, it shows that Hartman’s absurd accusation that Al was interfering with SMPD while his hands were in the air was a diversion to cover-up and distract from the fact that he had just assaulted an unarmed, cooperative young man for no reason,” Weber said in a statement. “Second, it once again shows the complete failure to supervise at SMPD. They don’t have any system to review arrests involving problem officers? They don’t have any system to review an arrest where a problematic officer used a taser on an unarmed human being? Where is the supervision?”
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 tells 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.”
Hartman has since been permanently terminated from SMPD for misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination. Hartman’s employment with the department was mired in controversy following a fatal traffic collision he caused in June 2020.
Jennifer Miller was killed on June 10, 2020 in Lockhart when Hartman, who was off duty, struck Pamela Watts’ Honda Accord after running a stop sign going 16 mph over the speed limit with an open container of Dos Equis beer in his Ford F-250, according to Lockhart Police Department records.
LPD recommended a charge of criminally negligent homicide after a months-long investigation into the incident. But a grand jury handed him a no-bill. He was reinstated to the department following the no-bill until he was indefinitely suspended in January 2022. He appealed the indefinite suspension but a hearing examiner upheld the suspension, resulting in permanent termination.
Hearing examiner Bill Detwiler found that Hartman violated Texas Local Government Code Chapter 143 and Civil Service Rule 10, including neglect of duty, conduct prejudicial to good order, shirking of duty, and violation of an applicable police department rule or special order.
Watts, who has called for Hartman to be removed from the force since the fatal crash, and local nonprofit Mano Amiga are calling for the “Hartman Reforms,” five police reforms to be included during ongoing meet-and-confer contract negotiations between the City of San Marcos and the San Marcos Police Officers Association.
These reforms include ending the 180-day-rule, end delay of interviews for misconduct, public transparency for personnel files, end third-party arbitration and end vacation forfeiture as a substitution to suspension.
Leyva’s lawsuit seeks punitive damages after “Hartman acted with such disregard for Al’s humanity.” Leyva is seeking a jury trial.