San Marcos police officer: ‘I caused the death of somebody by me not paying attention’

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Newly-released body camera video shared with KXAN shows a San Marcos police officer admitting he wasn’t paying attention when he hit and killed a woman in June 2020.

Sgt. Ryan Hartman was off duty when he hit and killed Jennifer Miller. Miller’s life partner, Pam Watts, was also in the car with her but survived. Watts’ attorney released the footage, obtained by a public information request, to KXAN.

Officers found an open container of Dos Equis beer in Hartman’s truck, but a blood draw obtained by search warrant several hours after the crash showed Hartman’s blood alcohol content was within legal limits to drive.

It’s important to note he hasn’t been charged with a crime. 

But Watts and advocates are still fighting for additional accountability after Hartman spent a few months on paid administrative leave while the San Marcos Police Department said it investigated the matter.

The Lockhart Police Department was the responding agency to the crash site and recommended negligent homicide charges.

Because of a conflict of interest, the case was passed from the Caldwell County district attorney to Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz.

Goertz told KXAN he presented a distracted driving case to a grand jury but did not say what evidence he chose to present. The grand jury chose not to send the case to trial.

According to Goertz, he’s not at liberty to discuss what specific evidence was presented by law. However, he did say:

“I conducted my own review of the investigation of Mr. Hartmann for violation of Texas’s misdemeanor offense of texting while driving and causing a fatality and concluded that no criminal prosecution could be sustained based upon the facts of this case. While the forensic analysis of his phone supported his admission that he was on the phone at the time of the crash (not illegal), there was NO evidence to suggest he was texting.”

With newly-released body cam video showing Hartman admitting he was distracted, Watts and others want to know exactly what evidence was presented.

In the video, Hartman first identifies himself as San Marcos PD when approached by officers on the scene.

“Ryan Hartman, San Marcos PD,” Hartman said.

Shortly after, body cam video shows him appearing to be stunned after he realized he killed Miller.

“I want to cooperate, but at the same time… I caused the death of somebody by me not paying attention,” Hartman said.

It was at that point Hartman refused a blood alcohol test.

More than a year later, Watts and a group of supporters marched to San Marcos City Hall Wednesday, demanding answers as to when exactly an internal investigation was completed by SMPD.

“We’re going to the front steps,” she said, walking toward city hall.

Watts has shown up there a number of times the past year fighting and won’t stop until she feels Hartman is held properly accountable.

“They act like they don’t care,” Watts said. “We’re here today to once again see if we can wake up the city leaders of San Marcos, and see if they’re still comfortable with him representing the city as a police officer.”

On Wednesday, Watts brought a calendar as a prop with pictures of her late partner — looking for someone in the city to physically show her the date the internal investigation was done by SMPD but was told no one was available.

“I simply will not accept that,” Watts said. “You find someone for me to talk to.”

She said she won’t stop fighting.

“They have a job to do,” Watts said.

KXAN asked Hartman’s attorney for comment but did not hear back. San Marcos PD also declined to comment.

Watts has filed a civil lawsuit against Hartman with a court date next January.

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