San Marcos PD fires troubled sergeant at center of fatal crash, stun gun incident

Sgt. Ryan Hartman given indefinite suspension Tuesday evening for dereliction of duty and insubordination

Sgt. Ryan Hartman has been terminated by the San Marcos Police Department (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN MARCOS, Texas – A troubled San Marcos police sergeant who hit and killed a woman while driving off duty with an open alcohol container only to return to duty and get suspended for using a stun gun on a compliant man has been terminated by the department, city officials confirmed Wednesday.

Sgt. Ryan Hartman, a 14-year veteran of SMPD, was given an indefinite suspension Tuesday evening for misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination, a city spokeswoman confirmed.

San Marcos officials declined to release additional details.

Hartman could appeal his termination to a civil service commission or a third-party arbitrator.

Bungled investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies allowed Hartman to return to duty without being arrested or disciplined for the June 2020 crash in Lockhart, which killed 56-year-old Jennifer Miller and critically injured her partner, Pam Watts.

The F-250 pickup truck driven by Hartman, which is registered to his wife and her father, 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 from 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 be returned 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.

“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 San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge in an email sent to other San Marcos city officials last May.

Last January, 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 KSAT 12 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 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.

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About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.