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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Fight for accountability continues with community protest for Jennifer Miller


Protesters walk toward City Hall, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in San Marcos. 

Pamela Watts and community members gathered at San Marcos City Hall on July 21, continuing to demand accountability for the death of Jennifer Miller, who died after a car wreck involving off-duty San Marcos police officer Sgt. Ryan Hartman.
The wreck occurred on June 10, 2020. More than a year after the incident, Watts, Miller’s partner, continues to seek justice for Miller and asks for the termination of Hartman from his position within the San Marcos Police Department.
According to police reports, Hartman had been driving while talking on the phone moments leading up to the collision. There was also an open container of Dos Equis beer found inside his truck.
After the car wreck, Hartman received paid leave for about five months before returning to his job. When Hartman returned, the San Marcos Police Department hired Stan Standridge as its new chief of police. With Hartman’s return in late November, he was reinstated to his job 180 days before the accident had passed. Under Texas law and union contract, officer discipline should be issued within 180 days of an incident’s occurrence.
Watts, community members and Mano Amiga, a local social justice organization, visited City Hall on July 21 to present a calendar to city officials questioning why Sgt. Hartman was allowed back to work before disciplinary measures were made.
“Law is law, right is right and wrong is wrong,” Watts says. “It doesn’t matter what your career path in life or who you are in life, the rules should be the same, and it should be equally applied to everybody, and we need to start getting that right in this country. I think we need to start with accountability, everybody needs to be personally accountable for their actions, doesn’t matter who you are and he has not been held accountable.”
Days before the visit to City Hall, Mano Amiga posted on its Facebook page an undated email from Standridge addressed to Mayor Jane Hughson and former San Marcos Director of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations Kristy Stark. In the email, Standridge implies the city did not conduct an internal investigation into Hartman’s charge until it was too late to take action against Hartman. 
The email along with recent body camera footage of Hartman admitting he was not paying attention while driving on the day of the crash, encouraged the protest from Watts and Mano Amiga even further.
Claudia Zapata, a congressional candidate for Texas’ 35th congressional district, has attended protests with Watts in the past. Zapata says she’s supporting Watts and believes actions have consequences that call for accountability.
“I was at a press conference that Pam had, not too long ago, in front of City Hall, and we talked about how important it was that if SMPD tried trailing anyone for a DUI or DWI but not go after Hartman but go after your like poor everyday working folks, then we were gonna raise [expletive],” Zapata says. 
During the visit to City Hall, Watts was met with an empty building. She was told City Manager Bert Lumbreras and Mayor Hughson were either not in the building or unavailable in meetings. 
Watts had come to City Hall with a calendar outlining the events leading up to the crash, such as her and Miller eating at restaurants and gardening together. Jordan Buckley, Mano Amiga’s co-founder, explains the calendar ends with what happened after the crash and shows the months after where Hartman could have been disciplined for his actions.
“With this calendar, we’re going to invite the city manager and the mayor to lay their finger on the calendar and tell us when within the 180 days did the city actually conduct an internal investigation? Given that Sgt. Hartman admitted that he was going 16 miles over the speed limit, he admitted he ran two stop signs, he admitted he was talking on his phone, he admitted he had an open container of alcohol, he admitted that he refused to voluntarily provide and prove his sobriety on the scene, we’re going to ask, ‘When did this internal investigation take place?'” Buckley says.
After not getting the chance to speak with any city officials, Watts and protesters decided to meet again later that evening at the San Marcos Police Department Chief’s Advisory Panel meeting. 
However, Watts was not allowed to ask questions during the meeting and was told her questions did not pertain to the items listed on the meeting agenda. The meeting agenda included an overview of the city’s cite and release program, discussion on crime/crashes, critical dispatch shortages and patrol updates.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Kristy Stark as the former San Marcos City Manager. Stark was the former San Marcos Director of Communications and Intergovernmental Relations. We have since corrected the story and apologize for any inconvenience. 

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  • A protest attendee holds a sign reading “Hartman must go! Justice for Jennifer Miller,” Wednesday, July 21, 2021, outside San Marcos City Hall. 

  • Protestors plea for accountability from city officials for the death of Jennifer Miller on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, outside City Hall. 

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