Ex-San Marcos police officer facing civil lawsuit for role in fatal 2020 traffic crash asks to get his job back months after being discharged from the force.
Ryan Hartman, who was a sergeant, was fired in January for what San Marcos City Manager Bert Lumbreras described “as the result of sustained misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.”
Hartman, who had been a San Marcos police officer since 2007, caused a fatal collision at Lockhart while off duty in June 2020, Caldwell County officials said. Crash survivor Pam Watts, whose partner Jennifer Miller was killed in the wreckage, had called for Hartman’s ouster from the department.
A grand jury in 2020 declined to indict Hartman on any charges related to the crash, and he remained on the force for more than a year until his firing last month.
An internal police investigation determined his dismissal was unrelated to the June 2020 accident.
Hartman filed an appeal earlier this month asking an arbitrator to overturn his indefinite suspension and reinstate him with back pay and benefits.
The San Marcos City Council last week hired attorney Julia Gannaway of the law firm Ross Gannaway LLC to represent the city in the case.
Hartman is represented by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, a statewide law enforcement union. A spokesperson for the group declined to comment on the matter as it is ongoing.
City of San Marcos officials also declined to comment further on the matter.
The fatal accident
According to Caldwell County authorities, Hartman was crossing the intersection of Texas 130 and Maple Street in Lockhart on June 10, 2020, when he failed to brake at the stop sign and struck a vehicle carrying Watts and Miller. .
Miller was killed and Watts was seriously injured, suffering multiple broken bones, cuts and bruises. Watts said she also later suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hartman was off duty that day and was driving his personal Ford F-250 pickup truck. Authorities later discovered an open container of beer and beer salts inside Hartman’s vehicle, raising suspicions that he may have been driving while intoxicated. Authorities charged him with criminally negligent homicide.
Police said Hartman did not appear to be visibly intoxicated or smell of alcohol, but when they asked him to perform a field sobriety test, he refused to do so.
According to a report by Lockhart Police Lt. Daniel Williams, on the day of the crash Hartman said, “I caused someone’s death by not paying attention to it,” then he refused. sobriety test application.
A search warrant for his blood was granted three hours after the crash. The toxicology report showed Hartman had no alcohol in his system.
Months later, a Caldwell County grand jury declined to press charges. Instead, Hartman was ticketed for running a stop sign and placed on paid administrative leave for several months.
Hartman returned to the role in late 2020 and had worked at San Marcos until January without any reprimands.
According to the results of an internal investigation — obtained through a request for records opened and shared with the American statesman — Hartman was fired for failing to perform his duties as a sergeant.
The investigation, which was led by San Marcos Police Cmdr. Lee Leonard, found instances where Hartman failed to complete the paperwork.
On December 7, 2019, Hartman responded to a fatal single-vehicle accident that required next of kin notification. He performed this duty the same night. All the crash needed was a Hartman story. The paperwork was not completed until June 21, 2021, more than 18 months after the crash, the inquest says.
Hartman on March 12, 2021 also failed to file any additional paperwork for an investigation into a homicide that occurred that day. According to Leonard’s investigation, the lack of urgency delayed the filing of the case with the district attorney’s office. Hartman was called back by email in August and again in September to complete the paperwork, and he apologized for the delay, saying it would be done by the end of that shift. But it wasn’t until October 11, 2021, nearly seven months after the homicide, that the paperwork was completed.
Leonard’s investigation found in both cases that Hartman had what he needed to file the documents and that the slowdown was not because he was waiting for evidence.
“It should be noted that this case, which involved a matter of the utmost importance of public safety (murder), was directly delayed by Hartman for one month and 25 days, at which time Detective Davidson expressed his readiness to drop it off and only need Hartman’s supplement,” the survey reads. “In its research of other homicides, the Department finds no similar example of such gross misconduct.”
San Marcos City Attorney Michael Cosentino told a city council meeting last week that under the local government code, a police officer who has been suspended indefinitely can appeal that suspension. sanction with an independent third party.
Cosentino said the next step is a hearing, which has not been scheduled, and witnesses will be called.
An arbitrator, he said, will make the ultimate decision whether to reinstate Hartman with back pay and benefits.
In the meantime, the city may also consider adjusting the local code on fired police officers, councilman Maxfield Baker said.
“In that dialogue, I think we should consider removing statutes like this that protect bad cops and those who are unfit for duty,” he said, “and making sure in the code that those calls that go to hearings do not include other police officers as witnesses.”