Cop involved in fatal crash fired
From staff reports
A San Marcos police sergeant involved in a fatal car crash in Lockhart in summer 2020 was effectively terminated last week.
According to a report from KVUE, Austin’s ABC affiliate, City Manager Bert Lumbreras informed the San Marcos City Council of the decision via e-mail last Tuesday prior to the city’s regular council meeting.
The note from Lumbreras did not explicitly nor implicitly link Sgt. Ryan Hartman’s firing to the crash that killed Kingsbury resident Jennifer Miller. While Hartman was informally charged in the fatal crash, a Grand Jury in November ruled not to indict him with criminally negligent homicide
“The purpose of this correspondence is to make you aware of the indefinite suspension of San Marcos Police Sergeant Ryan Hartman. In the civil service environment, an indefinite suspension is equivalent to a termination,” the letter from Lumbreras read. “Mr. Hartman does have the right to appeal this decision to either the Civil Service Commission or request his appeal be heard by a third-party arbitrator. Chief Standridge indefinitely suspended Mr. Hartman effective this evening, January 18, 2022.
“Although we do not routinely notify Council of employee terminations, we thought it best to notify you all of this one because of the amount of media attention that has surrounded this particular employee. Sergeant Hartman’s indefinite suspension came as the result of sustained misconduct related to dereliction of duty and insubordination.”
Miller was driving the Honda Accord that was struck in June 2020 by a pickup being driven by Hartman, who Lockhart police said had crashed after allegedly failing to stop at a stop sign on Maple Street.
The San Marcos Daily Record originally reported that according to Lockhart police, Hartman was detained after refusing to take a blood alcohol test on scene after officers discovered an open beer can in his truck.
Hours later, after a search warrant was obtained, Hartman’s blood was drawn and no alcohol was detected, according to reports. Hartman maintained he had not consumed any beer from the can prior to the collision.
According to the incident report, his deposition and forensic evidence, Hartman was speeding, talking on the phone, and had failed to stop at two stop signs, the Daily Record reported.
Bastrop County Attorney Bryan Goertz was appointed as a special prosecutor for the case after Caldwell County District Attorney Fred Weber recused himself at the request of Watts, who had learned Weber had previously prosecuted cases out of Hays County in which Hartman had been an arresting officer.
Watts, who said in December that she is still suffering from long-term injuries, has filed a civil case against Hartman that has a hearing scheduled for next week.
In a Nov. 2 certified letter sent to the district attorney who handled the case, Watts’ attorneys said they were requesting a new trial because their client had not been given a chance to testify at the November 2020 proceedings.
Watts has accused Goertz of “malfeasance” when presenting the evidence to the grand jury, and asked 421st District Court Judge Chris Schneider to appoint a new attorney pro-tem on the case, stating that she believed prosecutors had covered for a fellow member of law enforcement.
Texas state law suggests that the road to bringing the case against Hartman before a Grand Jury for a second time has three access points. In one scenario, Goertz simply brings it before the Grand Jury for a second time — a path not typically taken by prosecutors in the absence of new evidence. In another, Goertz would recuse himself from the case, opening the door for another prosecutor to act as attorney pro-tem. Finally, Schneider could get involved by deciding to remove the current attorney pro-tem from the case, opening the door for a new one to be appointed.