Troubled ex-sergeant permanently removed from San Marcos PD following arbitrator’s ruling

Ryan Hartman fired in January for list of rules violations including insubordination and dereliction of duty

Fired San Marcos Police Department Sergeant Ryan Hartman. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN MARCOS, Texas – A troubled San Marcos police sergeant has been permanently dismissed from the agency after an arbitrator last week agreed with the city’s decision to fire him.

Sergeant Ryan Hartman, who was controversially returned to duty in late 2020 after hitting and killing a woman while driving off duty with an open alcohol container, was suspended indefinitely in January for unrelated rules violations.

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In a June 20 award that sided with the city, hearing examiner Bill Detwiler wrote that Hartman’s discipline was fair and appropriate.

Hartman, a 14-year veteran of SMPD, was handed the indefinite suspension on Jan. 18 for rules violations ranging from insubordination to dereliction of duty.

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 cases including a murder, an intoxication manslaughter and an officer shooting incident that included him, records show.

An internal investigation determined that Hartman violated department rules pertaining to neglect of duty, conduct prejudicial to good order, shirking of duty and bias-based policing, the suspension paperwork states.

The investigation also determined Hartman failed to complete the paperwork despite accruing more than 120 hours of overtime for the specific purpose of completing “late calls paperwork.”

Hartman, in a written response to IA questions submitted in December, wrote that he was dealing with personal issues and mental health challenges that affected his work, according to the records.

Hartman appealed his termination and argued his case for reinstatement during a multi-day hearing earlier this year.

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.

Hartman was driving an F-250 pickup truck registered to his wife and her father. He was driving 46 mph when he 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.

A Lockhart police officer records himself emptying the contents of a double-size 24-ounce Dos Equis beer recovered at the scene of the fatal crash. (KSAT)

Lockhart police at first indicated Hartman would be allowed to leave the scene after being treated for minor injuries.

However, officers 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 beer 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 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 controversially be returned to duty from administrative leave in late 2020, 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.

“The facts in Appellant’s case are unfortunate. There is no question that he performed well for much of his career receiving promotions, numerous commendations, and references. He was respected by his subordinates. His tragic accident has scarred his life and placed him in the care of mental health providers while undergoing public animus. While he professes to be fit and ready to go back to work, the evidence shows otherwise,” wrote Detwiler, who pointed out that Hartman failed to use forms of assistance during his tenure such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In January 2021, weeks after Hartman returned to duty, he used a stun gun on a man who was compliant and had his hands up, internal SMPD records obtained by the Defenders showed.

Hartman was suspended for one week and ordered to go through re-training for de-escalation and officer tactical training following the January 2021 incident, records showed.

Hartman, however, elected to forfeit 40 hours of accrued leave instead of serving the one-week suspension he was issued by the department.

The suspect Hartman used the stun gun on, Albian Leyva, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Hartman and the city of San Marcos earlier this month.

About the Author

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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