SAN MARCOS, Texas – A fired San Marcos police department sergeant, who was returned to duty in 2020 without being arrested or disciplined for causing a fatal crash, has been named a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit for an unrelated stun gun incident.
The suit, filed in federal court in Austin on Tuesday, accuses ex-sergeant Ryan Hartman of using his department-issued stun gun in January 2021 on a compliant man who was following Hartman’s instructions after exiting the backseat of the car he was riding in.
The use of force incident happened six weeks after Hartman was returned to duty following a June 2020 fatal wreck in Lockhart.
The suit, which also names the city of San Marcos as a defendant, states that Hartman used his stun gun on passenger Albian Leyva despite Leyva producing his driver’s license, not taking an aggressive stance and having his hands up in plain view of officers for 15 seconds prior to being tasered.
Hartman was suspended for one week and ordered to go through re-training for de-escalation and officer tactical training following the stun gun incident, records show.
Hartman elected to forfeit 40 hours of accrued leave instead of serving the one-week suspension he was issued by the department, signed SMPD records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.
A misdemeanor interfering with public duties charge against Leyva, stemming from the incident, remains pending, Hays County court records show.
San Marcos Police Department Chief Stan Standridge did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment for this story.
A city spokeswoman said via email Thursday officials could not comment due to the pending litigation.
The suit is the latest legal issue facing Hartman, who was fired by SMPD in January for misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.
Hartman, at the time of his termination, had failed to turn in multiple officer evaluations despite receiving past due reminders as far back as July as well as a direct order from a department commander in October to complete them.
Hartman also failed to turn in reports in a timely manner for a murder, an intoxication manslaughter and an officer shooting incident that included him, records show.
Hartman appealed his termination and took part in an arbitration hearing earlier this year.
A final decision on whether to reinstate Hartman has not been issued, a source familiar with the proceedings told the Defenders this week.
Hartman’s civil attorney did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
Bungled investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies allowed Hartman to return to duty in late 2020 without being arrested or disciplined for a June 2020 crash in Lockhart, which killed 56-year-old Jennifer Miller and critically injured her partner, Pam Watts.
An F-250 pickup truck driven by Hartman was traveling 46 mph when it ran a stop sign near State Highway 130 and plowed into a Honda Accord driven by Watts around 4:15 p.m. on June 10, 2020. The posted speed limit in that area was 30 mph, records show.
Lockhart police at first indicated Hartman would be allowed to leave the scene after being treated for minor injuries.
Officers, however, then detained Hartman after the truck he was driving was flipped back onto its wheels, revealing a double-size 24-ounce can of Dos Equis beer still in a cupholder among the crash debris.
The can still contained several ounces of liquid, which a Lockhart officer recorded himself pouring out near the roadside, the body-camera video showed.
Lockhart police officials have repeatedly refused to say why Hartman was not ordered to go through a standard field sobriety test or a breath test at the scene.
Driving a vehicle with an open alcohol container is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas.
Hartman’s blood was later drawn at a hospital more than three hours after the crash took place, according to court records.
Lab results released in early July 2020, a month after the crash, showed that no alcohol was detected in Hartman’s blood. Later that same month, the criminal district attorney for Caldwell County, where the crash took place, recused himself from the case.
Lockhart police officials in August 2020 filed the case as a criminal negligent homicide, a state jail felony.
Hartman, however, was no-billed by a Caldwell County grand jury on Nov. 1, 2020, court records show. The case was presented by the Bastrop County District Attorney.
The no-bill paved the way for Hartman to return to duty from administrative leave, since he had not been criminally charged and because SMPD failed to carry out an internal investigation of Hartman while Lockhart PD conducted its criminal investigation.
A civil suit filed by Watts against Hartman remains pending.