Loved ones of woman killed in crash caused by SMPD officer hold memorial on anniversary of death


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story linked the case to the Caldwell County district attorney. The case was moved to Bastrop County due to a connection between the officer and the Caldwell County DA.

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — It’s been one year since Jennifer Miller was killed in a crash caused by an off-duty San Marcos police officer in Caldwell County.

On Thursday, family and friends honored her with a memorial outside of the San Marcos mayor’s office. There were a number of people who showed up in support during their lunch breaks. 

Miller’s partner, Pamela Watts, was in the car at the time of the crash and is still heartbroken after witnessing the tragic accident that killed Miller.

Jennifer Miller was killed in a crash nearly one year ago in Caldwell County on June 10, 2020 by a San Marcos police officer. An open can of beer was found in his vehicle at the time. (Courtesy: Pamela Watts)
Jennifer Miller was killed in a crash nearly one year ago in Caldwell County on June 10, 2020 by a San Marcos police officer. An open can of beer was found in his vehicle at the time. (Courtesy: Pamela Watts)

San Marcos Police Sgt. Ryan Hartman was behind the wheel. The Caldwell County district attorney passed the case to Bastrop County, because he knows Hartman.

San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge showed up to the memorial before it started to speak with Watts. It was an emotional conversation.

“If you guys think I’m backing off… I have respect for law enforcement — or I should say, I had respect,” Watts said to Standridge. “Your mother taught you the difference between right and wrong a long time ago, young man.”

Standridge calmly spoke to Watts, telling her his hands are tied.

“I have to go by the civil of law,” Standridge said. “The rule of law says I have 180 days as the chief administrator to effect civil law. That 180 days expired. By the time I got here, I learned the grand jury had returned a ‘no-bill,’ so by law in a civil service agency, you cannot terminate [Hartman’s] employment.”

Watt’s is still calling for Harman to be fired, but Standridge said responsibility fell on the chief before him. 

According to Standridge, he said he had three days to make a decision when he did take office. Watts feels he made the wrong one, and she’s now asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to look into this case. 

Those closest to Miller are emotional. And one year later, they’re still seeking closure.

“When does the pain stop, when do the tears stop falling down all our cheeks,” Miller’s best friend of more than 20 years, Amy Caperton, said. “When do we rest?”

Watts plans to keep drawing attention to Miller’s case.

“If you’re not going to prosecute police officers, how dare you try to prosecute citizens,” Watts said. “What’s good for one, is good for all. And there doesn’t need to be two levels of justice in our society today. I’m fed up.”

Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said evidence points to it being a distracted driving wreck. However, crash report documents note there was an open container of beer in Hartman’s truck.

Hartman refused a blood alcohol test, though he said he hadn’t been drinking. After police got a warrant for the test, it came back clean later that day.

Hartman was put on paid administrative leave but resumed duties after approval from Standridge in November.

Under Texas State Law, if you refuse a test, your license gets suspended for six months. According to Watt’s lawyer, that didn’t happen to Hartman.

KXAN has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety to find out why and are waiting to hear back.

Watts feels as if Hartman is being protected, because he’s a police officer.

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