On Wednesday, protestors, community members, friends and family gathered outside the Caldwell County Justice Center to demand justice for Jennifer Miller, a woman who was killed in a car accident involving an off-duty San Marcos police officer.
According to a police report obtained by the Signal, Sgt. Ryan Hartman, the officer involved in the fatal crash, was driving with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Hartman illegally ran a stop sign and then hit the victim’s vehicle. Police records also show he was driving 16 MPH over the speed limit. Hartman was later seen on body cam footage apologizing for his role in the accident, telling the responding officer, “I caused the death of someone by me not paying attention.”
Despite Hartman’s initial acceptance of guilt, he refused to submit himself to a field sobriety test. Protestors argue that by the time a warrant was obtained to test Hartman’s blood alcohol content, too much time had passed, giving his body the opportunity to process the alcohol in his system.
The original grand jury dismissed the case and decided not to recommend charges against Hartman. Protestors allege that the grand jury was not provided with all the evidence, most notably the open container of alcohol as well as testimony from Pamela Watts, the other passenger in the vehicle. “The grand jury in this case needs to know and be offended by the fact that the district attorney didn’t tell them all the facts in this case,” said Pamela Watts, life partner of Jennifer Miller. “The grand jury can still ask to hear the case again.” Protestors have also accused District Attorney Bryan Goertz of covering up the alleged crimes committed that night by Hartman.
It’s unclear if the grand jury will be reconvened, however these delays are unlikely to deter Miller’s friends and family from continuing to seek justice. Earlier in the year, Miller’s friends and family protested outside of San Marcos City Hall to demand the city hold their employee accountable. However, the lack of a conviction has given the city an excuse for maintaining Hartman’s employment, which has further strained the relationship between the police and San Marcos community.
Mano Amiga, a local non-profit, has been assisting Miller’s friends and family through this difficult process. The organization has previously organized protests and press conferences for other victims of police violence in the past, and they’re unlikely to stop their pursuit for justice anytime soon. Mano Amiga and Miller’s friends and family are urging members of the public to continue to put pressure on these officials and hold them accountable.
Photo: Mano Amiga