SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The partner of a woman who was killed in a crash caused by an off-duty San Marcos police officer about a year ago got to speak face to face with the police chief about how the case was handled.
Lockhart police officers who responded to the crash at an intersection in Caldwell County found an open can of beer in Officer Ryan Hartman’s truck, but report Hartman didn’t seem to be intoxicated.
A grand jury chose not to indict Hartman, and he was put on paid administrative leave before going back to work for San Marcos police in November.
Pamela Watts, who was in the car when the crash happened, held a memorial Thursday for her partner who was killed, Jennifer Miller, at the San Marcos mayor’s office.
There, Watts got to ask San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge why Hartman was welcomed back to work. Watts believes Hartman should have faced harsher consequences.
“This officer should not be representing San Marcos, this officer should not be representing your police department, it’s not fair that he drags you into this even,” Watts said to Standridge.
Standridge became police chief for San Marcos in November 2020, after the accident happened in June 2020. He explained to Watts that according to rule of law, he has a certain number of days to implement discipline on an officer — which expired as he was arriving at the department.
Questions were raised as to why previous administration didn’t take further action.
“Your predecessor should have done something, so if you took over the office after he did, you still have to stand in those shoes, and act as if it were him,” Watts said.
The case was also presented to a grand jury as a distracted driving case rather than a criminally negligent homicide because Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said the evidence didn’t support it.
“I cannot speak to anything that the investigating agency did or the district attorney or the grand jury, that is completely outside of my wheelhouse,” Standridge explained to Watts.
Standridge agreed if it was one of his family members who was killed, he wouldn’t be satisfied with how the case was handled either.
“I will not shut up, I will not be appeased, and I will not stop until that man is no longer wearing a uniform for anybody,” Watts said.
She said there needs to be more transparency within law enforcement and the legal system.
Standridge and Watts have previously spoken, when Standridge notified her that Hartman would be returning to work.
In a letter to mayor and city council in April 2021, Standridge said “there is no civil service rule that was clearly violated by this off-duty conduct that was not criminally prosecuted. Consequently, I conferred with HR and Chief Stapp and returned Ryan to work, but only after informing the survivor.”