Troubled San Marcos sergeant at center of fatal crash fired for failing to turn in evaluations and reports, records show

Sgt. Ryan Hartman is appealing his indefinite suspension

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

San Marcos, Texas – A San Marcos police sergeant who avoided punishment after hitting and killing a woman while driving off duty with an open alcohol container was fired last month for failing to turn in officer evaluations and reports from major incidents, internal records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.

Sgt. Ryan Hartman, a 14-year veteran of SMPD, was handed an indefinite suspension 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 a murder, an intoxication manslaughter and an officer shooting incident that included him, records show.

An internal investigation of Hartman determined he 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 is appealing his termination, San Marcos officials confirmed Tuesday.

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.

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 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.

“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.

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.

DA had to follow up with SMPD in hundreds of cases

In December, SMPD officials became aware that the Hays County District Attorney’s Office had been forced to follow up with the department hundreds of times in cases submitted to its office going back to 2017.

The DA’s office had to ask SMPD to follow up or complete some portion of reports in 204 cases. Twelve of those cases involved paperwork from Hartman, the records state.

Standridge, who did not respond to a request for an interview for this story, pushed back on the Defenders describing the revelation as “systemic reporting issues within San Marcos PD.”

Standridge instead described the process of submitting reports to the DA as “an arduous task.”

“Investigations are seldom static, meaning they are seldom investigated and then never touched again. Instead, filing agencies must await autopsy results, BACs, other agency supplements, and more. Additionally, when a report is initially done, it is entered as DRAFT until the initial officer and his/her supervisor approve it. Lastly, sometimes a Records Clerk will forget to upload a document in the shared drive, thus leading to another inquiry,” Standridge wrote via email Tuesday.

He added that a state law that went into effect last year is meant to help with the filing of cases and ensuring that everything is complete.

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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.