San Marcos Police Department Sgt. Ryan Hartman, who was responsible for a fatal crash in Lockhart in June 2020, was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday. Above, Pamela Watts speaks during a protest on July 21, 2021 where she, and supporters, continue to seek justice for Jennifer Miller, who was killed in the fatal collision. Daily Record photo by Nick Castillo
SMPD sergeant put on indefinite suspension for dereliction of duty, insubordination
San Marcos Police Department Sgt. Ryan Hartman was suspended indefinitely as a result of sustained misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.
City Manager Bert Lumbreras made Mayor Jane Hughson and San Marcos City Council aware of Hartman’s suspension in an email sent Tuesday. An indefinite suspension is equivalent to a termination in the civil service environment, Lumbreras wrote. Hartman has the right to appeal the decision to either the Civil Service Commission or he can request his appeal to be heard by a third party arbitrator.
“Although we do not routinely notify council of employee terminations, we thought it best to notify you all of this one because of the amount of media attention that has surrounded this particular employee,” Lumbreras wrote. “Sergeant Hartman’s indefinite suspension came as the result of sustained misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.”
Hartman’s employment with SMPD became mired in controversy after he ran through a stop sign and collided with the car in Lockhart on June 10, 2020, Lockhart Police Department records show. The collision resulted in the death of Jennifer Miller and caused severe bodily and brain injuries to Pamela Watts.
According to Hartman’s deposition, police reports and forensic evidence, Hartman was driving 16 mph over the 30 mph speed limit on a partially gravel road with an open container of Dos XX that was ¾ empty, talking on the phone, and he failed to stop at two stop signs before colliding with Watts’ vehicle.
In a statement released in September 2021, the City of San Marcos refuted claims that Hartman was on his phone while driving. The city stated that cell phone tower data showed that Hartman wasn't texting while driving, the investigating officers didn’t report signs of intoxication despite the presence of a 24-ounce open-container of Dos XX, and that he was only driving 16 mph over the speed limit compared to the previously reported 20 mph over the posted limit.
Hartman said that he caused the death of someone because he wasn’t paying attention on released body cam footage.
“I’m already, I caused the death of somebody by me not paying attention,” Hartman said at the scene.
Hartman refused to take a blood alcohol test on scene and was detained. A search warrant was obtained on suspicion of driving while intoxicated due to the open container detected.
The blood-alcohol test taken hours after the crash found no alcohol in Hartman’s system.
Lockhart Police Department’s investigation recommended a charge of criminally negligent homicide. Caldwell County District Attorney Fred Weber recused himself at the request of Watts because he knew Hartman, according to Watts, and appointed Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz as a special prosecutor for the case.
A grand jury reviewed the charge and returned a no-bill, leaving civil action as Watts’ only recourse where she could file for damages for her sustained injuries.
Watts has been making a plea for justice for Miller since April 2021 when she began posting signs around San Marcos, spreading awareness about the fatal crash. Several rallies have been held over the past year where she’s vocally spoken out about Hartman’s employment with SMPD.
San Marcos Chief of Police Stan Standridge informed Hartman of his indefinite suspension on Tuesday.