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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Fight for justice continues after SMPD officer kills woman

Pamela+Watts+holds+a+24oz+can+of+Dos+Equis+beer+in+front+of+a+memorial+sign+for+Jennifer+Miller+while+talking+to+KXAN+reporter+Jala+Washington%2C+Thursday%2C+June+10%2C+2021%2C+at+San+Marcos+City+Hall.+An+identical+can+was+found+on+the+night+of+the+collision+in+the+car+of+Sgt.+Ryan+Hartman%2C+who+refused+a+blood+alcohol+draw+at+the+scene.

Pamela Watts holds a 24oz can of Dos Equis beer in front of a memorial sign for Jennifer Miller while talking to KXAN reporter Jala Washington, Thursday, June 10, 2021, at San Marcos City Hall. An identical can was found on the night of the collision in the car of Sgt. Ryan Hartman, who refused a blood alcohol draw at the scene.

On June 10, 2020, Pamela Watts’ life was altered forever when off-duty San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) Officer Sgt. Hartman struck her car, severely injuring her and killing her partner Jennifer Miller. Two years later, activists are still fighting for justice and reform surrounding the fatal case.
With a mountain of evidence piled up against Hartman, there is still no indication that district attorney Bryan Goertz opened the evidence file. To Watts’ disbelief, a grand jury voted and Hartman was only charged with a class C traffic ticket for running a stop sign.
Body camera footage from the day of the incident shows that Sgt. Ryan Hartman verbally refused to give a sample in order to test his blood alcohol content, stating that he “caused the death of somebody by not paying attention.”
Investigators revealed that Hartman was driving greater than 50% of the legal speed limit with an open 24-ounce can of Dos Equis beer in his vehicle whilst talking on the phone. His refusal to prove sobriety at the scene was just the start of the lack of accountability that Watts has seen time and time again from SMPD.
“I don’t see an end to this because I haven’t seen any action from the city of San Marcos or the SMPD to change their ways,” Watts said. “If my activism does anything, I hope it shows other people how they can fight and that activists like Mano Amiga will shine a floodlight on people’s actions.”
Formerly reluctant to use the word activist to describe herself because of the negative connotation it held in her mind, Watts has now found that it takes an army to bring about necessary change.
Jordan Buckley, the founder of the nonprofit organization Mano Amiga, found Watts one day advocating justice for Miller.
“I didn’t know what his agenda was, I just knew it was personal for me,” Watts said. “I didn’t yet realize I couldn’t move a mountain by myself and that this is going to take your generation, mine and everybody to care enough about each other, listen and do more.”
Utilizing access to open records and organizing events to draw attention to this tragedy were Buckley’s ways of creating a solid support system and raising awareness of the situation in the community.
“Pam was still in the neurologist’s office when Chief Standridge called to tell her that he was putting Hartman back to work,” Buckley said. “We also discovered that Mayor Jane Hughson knew about it and didn’t decide to tell anyone, so basically the cops just tried to sweep it under the rug I think in hopes that no one would ever find out about it.”
According to Buckley, it was “only through the courage of Pam standing on the side of the road” that the community and media ever found out about what happened.
Since Mano Amiga’s involvement in the case, the organization has sat through every meet and confer meeting to implement reforms within the police department called “The Hartman Reforms.” Samantha Benavides, communications director for Mano Amiga, has been working alongside Watts to push for these reforms to be passed. The 180-Day Rule, which gives the chief 180 days to file a complaint, was extended and is only one of the five reforms to be passed so far.
“All these reforms that we were demanding they take the initiative to implement are very reasonable,” Benavides said. “They shouldn’t have the chance to try and run out the 180 days before so officers don’t have to be disciplined.”
Attempting to stay involved and to “stand up for the little guy” as Watts puts it, is Mano Amigo’s mission. Elle Cross, the right to justice coordinator for Mano Amiga, is pushing to repeal the ratified contract regarding The Hartman Reforms. She stresses the importance of voters and collecting signatures for any real change to occur.
“Our goal is to gather 800 signatures within five weeks from now,” Cross said. “Time passes quickly but we’re sending people out at least five days a week to knock on our community members’ doors and collect signatures.”
Booths will be set up at the Frights and Sounds festival on the weekend of Oct. 8, as well as at the Lost River Film Festival on the weekend of Oct. 20. Mano Amiga and Watts hope to get at least 400 registered voters on campus alone in order to nullify the ratified agreement. According to Watts, Benavides and Cross, student involvement through signatures is the next step towards getting reform to happen.
“It’s an injustice system,” Watts said. “I came to know that but I hadn’t been treated like this all my life so I had no clue, but thank goodness for Mano Amigo because there need to be people holding people accountable and that’s not happening.” 

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