SAN MARCOS, Texas – A San Marcos Police Department sergeant fired earlier this year for a cluster of rules violations, including insubordination, was able to get a general discharge from the agency, paperwork obtained by KSAT Investigates shows.
Sgt. Ryan Hartman’s separation of licensee paperwork, often called an “F-5,” lists his departure from SMPD as a general discharge.
The document was signed by SMPD Chief Stan Standridge on Jan.` 25, a week after Standridge fired Hartman.
Among the rules violations cited in Hartman’s termination paperwork was insubordination.
A dishonorable discharge, the most severe designation given to a separated officer, is reserved for officers who are terminated or resign in lieu of being terminated in relation to criminal misconduct or for insubordination or untruthfulness.
Hartman’s termination falls into the category of a dishonorable discharge. The decision on how to label the separation, however, often lies directly with the chief.
Standridge, through a city spokeswoman, declined a request for comment for this story.
A general discharge designation historically makes it easier for officers in Texas to land law enforcement positions with other agencies.
Hartman’s attempt to overturn his indefinite suspension failed last month after a third-party arbitrator sided with the city.
Hartman’s permanent dismissal capped off a career with SMPD that had been mired in controversy the past two years.
Hartman hit and killed a woman while driving with an open alcohol container in his truck in June 2020 in Lockhart.
Bungled investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies allowed Hartman to return to duty without being arrested or disciplined for the crash, which killed 56-year-old Jennifer Miller and critically injured her partner, Pam Watts.
After San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp, the department’s former police chief, wrote a statement in June 2021 that Hartman was not indicted for any crime that would lead to him being terminated, Standridge responded that 180 days lapsed while the department waited for the criminal case to be investigated and go to a grand jury.
The Local Government Code only allows departments to discipline officers within 180 days of discovering an alleged rules violation.
Hartman testified during his deposition for a civil lawsuit tied to the crash that one of the first calls he made was to his supervisor with SMPD, which would have started the 180-day clock on June 10, 2020.
Since court records show Hartman was no-billed by a grand jury on Nov. 1, 2020, that means only 144 days transpired between the day of the crash and the case being closed.
Additionally, nothing was stopping SMPD from carrying out an internal investigation of Hartman while Lockhart PD conducted its criminal investigation of him, San Marcos city officials now concede.
“Please note -- if this were to happen again, wherein a criminal complaint is alleged against an officer for off-duty behavior, I would not require the Department to wait to internally investigate and possibly sustain misconduct allegations. We need to avoid that in future events and run both (criminal and internal investigations) concurrently. It is sometimes easier and cleaner to rely on the CJ system, but it is often too slow,” said Standridge, in emails obtained by KSAT Investigates last year.
Stun gun incident still buzzing
Six weeks after Hartman returned to duty, in January 2021, he was accused of using his stun gun on a compliant passenger after the man had exited a vehicle.
Passenger Albian Leyva got out of the vehicle with empty hands raised to shoulder height, records show.
As Leyva kneeled on a sidewalk, he began getting conflicting commands from Hartman and another officer, internal affairs records show.
Leyva at one point retrieved his ID from his wallet and then dropped it on the ground, later retrieving it and pulling out his cell phone from a front pocket, records show.
As Leyva began to use his phone at face level to possibly record the officers, Hartman told fellow officers, “I’m going to tase this guy,” records show.
No further commands were given to Leyva for the next 15 seconds. Hartman and two other officers then began to approach Leyva, who had his hands raised above his shoulders with his phone in one hand and his ID in the other, records show.
A “split-second” after Hartman yelled at Leyva to come to him, Hartman deployed his stun gun on him, not giving Leyva a chance to comply, records confirm.
A second officer, Jacinto “Rey” Melendrez, also used his stun gun on Leyva, records show.
Hartman was suspended for one week and ordered to go through re-training for de-escalation and officer tactical training following the incident, SMPD records show.
The incident resurfaced in late June, days after Hartman and the city of San Marcos were sued by Leyva in federal court for alleged civil rights violations.
On June 24, Standridge emailed a Texas Ranger requesting that he look into whether Hartman committed a criminal offense during the on-duty stun gun incident.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety told KSAT Investigates via email July 5, however, that the Rangers are not investigating the case.
According to a press release, people are planning to gather Wednesday night outside SMPD headquarters, during a police advisory panel meeting, to protest the city’s decision not to release footage of the stun gun incident and to protest Standridge’s decision not to have SMPD criminally charge Hartman for his actions.