SAN MARCOS, Texas – A man who San Marcos police officers shocked with stun guns while his arms were raised during a 2021 incident has received a $125,000 settlement from the city, court records viewed Monday by KSAT Investigates show.
Albian Leyva was given the settlement last month in exchange for releasing his civil rights violation claims against the City of San Marcos and four officers who responded to the scene in the 300 block of Wonder World Drive in January 2021.
Leyva was a backseat passenger in a car briefly pursued by officers in connection with the possible theft of phone-charging cords from a convenience store in the 3900 block of Interstate 35 South.
The vehicle’s driver eventually pulled over about three miles away.
Records show that Leyva was compliant and got out of the vehicle when two officers used their Taser weapons on him.
Cellphone camera footage recorded by Leyva shows then-SMPD Sgt. Ryan Hartman walking toward him yelling, “Come to me now! Come to me now!” before firing his department-issued stun gun.
A second officer, Jacinto “Rey” Melendrez, also used his stun gun on Leyva, records show.
Body-worn camera footage of the incident viewed by KSAT showed Leyva with raised arms, his ID in one hand and his cellphone in the other hand, when he was struck by the Taser probes.
Leyva’s body stiffened and he slammed into the pavement, losing one of his shoes, the footage shows.
Hartman, who was later suspended one week and ordered to go through re-training for de-escalation and officer tactical training following the incident, was shown in the footage giving Leyva contradictory commands prior to using his stun gun on him.
The use of force incident happened six weeks after Hartman was returned to duty following a June 2020 fatal wreck in Lockhart that he caused.
Hartman was terminated by SMPD in January 2022 for unrelated rules violations including insubordination and dereliction of duty.
Leyva’s lawsuit was amended in January to add additional officers, and attorney Rebecca Webber had asked the court to allow Leyva to add a claim of wrongful arrest.
Officer Melendrez resigned a month after the stun gun incident, citing his desire to pursue a career in entrepreneurship.
A use-of-force report submitted by Melendrez after the Leyva Taser incident was labeled as incomplete by the SMPD supervisor who reviewed it.
San Marcos Police Department Chief Stan Standridge previously told KSAT Investigates that Melendrez’s resignation was not connected to the stun gun incident.
Officer Jordan Perkins, who was added to the suit in January, was terminated less than two weeks later for what San Marcos officials described as “sustained policy violations.”
Perkins crashed into a car in an apartment complex in November and failed to report the incident, discipline records obtained by KSAT show.
A woman’s car suffered significant damage to its passenger side door and the SMPD vehicle driven by Perkins was also damaged, photo and written records show.
Additionally, Perkins was untruthful when questioned about the crash, his discipline paperwork shows.
SMPD officials issued Perkins and indefinite suspension on Jan. 24.
Records show last March Perkins was suspended for two other incidents, including one in which he placed his handgun against the neck and head of a suspect.
A second officer had to tell Perkins to holster his gun, records show.
In the second incident, Perkins struck a handcuffed suspect in the chin, injuring him.
Perkins served a 16-day suspension and had he not agreed to the punishment, would have faced an indefinite suspension, records show.
Only one of the four officers named in Leyva’s suit remains employed by SMPD.
A misdemeanor interference-with-public-duties charge filed against Leyva by SMPD was dismissed by Hays County prosecutors last year.
“I think he never asked to be a spokesperson for transparency and accountability and he’s just happy to move on with his life,” said Leyva’s attorney, Rebecca Webber.
Webber said that three of the officers in the Leyva incident no longer working for SMPD may have been a contributing factor in the city moving to settle the case.
A San Marcos city official released the following statement via email Monday afternoon:
“The San Marcos Police Department has adopted policies that emphasize accountability, promote de-escalation, and minimize the risk of conflict or injury to officers and community members. The officer involved in this incident did not act according to policy and training and was disciplined as a result. While the City maintains its position of non-liability, we are pleased that a mutually agreeable resolution has been reached, which will enable all parties involved to move forward.”
A second federal civil rights lawsuit filed against SMPD regarding its use of stun guns remains pending.
In that case, SMPD officers used Taser weapons against John Kelley, who is deaf, in May 2019 while he was walking along a highway frontage road.
“The community has identified five pieces of low hanging fruit” they want the city council to address, said Webber, when asked Monday how SMPD can improve its policing practices.
The so-called “Hartman Reforms” seek to:
- End the 180-Day Rule - repeal the statute of limitations on investigating wrongdoing by officers
- End Delay of Interviews for Misconduct - currently officers are afforded 48+ hours to prepare their answers and are provided an opportunity to review any videotape, photograph, or other materials in advance of giving an official statement
- Public Transparency for Personnel Files - make documented misconduct available to the community
- End Third-Party Arbitration
- End Vacation Forfeiture as a Substitute to Suspension