Fired San Marcos cop who caused fatal shipwreck wants job back

Ryan Hartman, the San Marcos police sergeant who directly caused a June 2020 car crash that killed a woman, was fired from the department 19 months later because of not the collision, but the the fact that he repeatedly failed to turn over documents related to multiple investigations.

That’s according to internal police department documents that show Hartman’s alleged dereliction of duty as a police sergeant, which ultimately led to his January 18 firing.

Hartman is appealing his dismissal, and the city of San Marcos was set to hire an attorney Tuesday night for $35,000 to challenge his appeal and remove him from the police force.

The former police sergeant is asking that he be reinstated and given back pay and benefits.

Hartman was suspended indefinitely by Chief Stan Standridge on January 18. An indefinite suspension is equivalent to a dismissal. In an email to the city council, San Marcos City Manager Bert Lumbreras did not specify the exact reason(s) Hartman was fired, but said it was “the result of persistent misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination”.

On June 10, 2020, Hartman, who was 39 at the time, was off duty and driving his Ford pickup truck down a one-way street in Lockhart, Texas when he ran into a pair of traffic signs. stopped at the intersection of Maple Street and State Highway 130. According to multiple police reports, he then rammed his truck into the passenger side of a Honda Accord driven by 64-year-old Pam Watts.

Watts’ partner of eight months, Jennifer Miller, 56, was in the passenger seat of the car. She succumbed to her injuries before the arrival of a medical helicopter. Watts suffered multiple long-term injuries and has been fighting for justice for his partner ever since, including getting Hartman fired.

Officers found a half-full beer can in Hartman’s truck after the wreckage, although Hartman denied having anything to drink. He underwent a court-ordered blood test three hours after the collision which showed no alcohol in his system.

Hartman was cleared to return to his duties after the incident, which included serving in a supervisory position over other police officers and investigating and responding to homicides, fatal auto wrecks and calls from drunk driving.

Reasons for dismissal

In an internal letter from Police Chief Stan Standridge to Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp on January 12, Standridge presented the results of an internal investigation into Hartman’s misconduct within the police force. The investigation stemmed from several complaints from other officers that Hartman had not completed required six-month personnel assessments for police officers under his supervision.

According to the letter, which was obtained via a public records request by the nonprofit Hays/Caldwell Examiner and shared with the Express-News, Hartman also failed to complete several documents related to material investigations.

For example, he waited a year, six months, and 14 days to complete a story related to a fatal single-vehicle crash on December 7, 2019, which delayed the closure of the investigation.

Hartman also reportedly waited nearly seven months to file a supplement related to a homicide investigation on March 12, 2021, causing the lead detective to delay his filing with the district attorney’s office.

A separate internal memo from Police Cmdr. Lee Leonard in Standridge showed that Hartman waited six months to complete a report on an officer-involved shooting that occurred on April 10, 2021, and he waited several months to complete reports on multiple drunk driving incidents.

In another letter from Standridge to Hartman sent on July 1, 2021, the police chief told Hartman he was suspended without pay for 40 hours after an internal investigation found he violated police policy. use of force and de-escalation department.

According to the letter, on January 12, 2021, Hartman deployed his stun gun against a male suspect who had his hands up and was complying with police orders. The suspect was in a car that was stopped during a criminal traffic stop.

“You used unnecessary and unreasonable force, and you failed to warn the suspect that you were going to use such force,” Standridge wrote in the letter to Hartman.

The stun gun incident, as well as the fatal out-of-service car accident, were not noted in the letter outlining the reason for Hartman’s dismissal.

Hartman is appealing the decision

Upon hearing that Hartman was asking to be reinstated to the police department, Watts said she hoped her dismissal would hold.

“I just hope they dot the i’s and the crossed t’s and that he stays fired, because I believe in my heart that he’s a bad apple,” she said.

In his appeal, Hartman is represented by attorneys from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT. The organization’s public affairs coordinator, Jennifer Szimanski, declined to answer questions or comment on the case.

“This case is ongoing and we have nothing further to add at this time,” she said.

The organization did not specify the amount of back pay Hartman was seeking. Public records show that in 2019, a year before the accident, Hartman was earning $41.46 an hour as a police sergeant.

Hartman did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

City Council will discuss hiring attorney Julia Gannaway, with the law firm Ross Gannaway PLLC, to represent it in the Hartman appeal for $275 per hour, with total fees not to exceed $35 $000, unless approved by the board.

In late 2020, a grand jury declined to indict Hartman on charges related to the fatal wreckage, but Watts led an initiative for a judge to convene another grand jury in hopes of indicting Hartman for manslaughter.

Annie Blanks writes for the Express-News through Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms.

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

De Montfort University poised for reluctant job losses as cost of living crisis hits funds

De Montfort University has announced that it may have to eliminate 58 positions in an …