VIDEO: 'Compliant' man tased by two San Marcos police officers

Cellphone video shared exclusively with FOX 7 Austin shows a man being tased by two officers. According to a San Marcos Police Internal Affairs report, the man was considered "generally compliant."

On Jan. 12, 2021, it was the "worst night" of Al Leyva’s life, according to his attorney Rebecca Webber. 

She said he was at a party when a female friend asked him to go for a drive. According to Webber, Leyva, who is in his mid-twenties, did not know the man behind the wheel. Police received information the man stole $80 worth of cell phone chargers from the Stripes gas station on IH-35 and Centerpoint Road. 

"The report of petty theft did not include weapons," Webber wrote in a lawsuit. 

She added that Leyva "had no knowledge that the driver of the car had stolen phone charging cords."

Five San Marcos police officers stopped the vehicle with their guns drawn. The driver, according to the internal affairs report authored by Corporal Clint Wood, was "a repeat violent offender." 

"Police aren't even allowed to arrest people for that level of offense. They issue a citation due to city law. So it's particularly bewildering that they would see fit to bring five officers with guns drawn," said Jordan Buckley, an activist with nonprofits Mano Amiga and the Caldwell-Hays Examiner.

Wood described the driver as "belligerent" and said he "was not fully cooperative" with officers.

According to Wood’s report, Leyva responded to officers’ commands "quickly and compliantly." He exited the vehicle with his hands above his head. 

Wood noted his "non-aggressive stance," "production of his driver’s license" and "lack of verbal resistance," "should have been observed as willingness to cooperate." 

Leyva shouted "y’all don’t have to do this" when Sgt. Ryan Hartman and Officer Jordan Perkins yelled conflicting commands. The conflicting commands prompted the driver to question who Perkins was speaking to. 

According to Wood’s report, Perkins "shouted" at him to "be quiet." At this point, Leyva retrieved his cellphone and began recording the encounter. Still, the report states his hands were in view for approximately 16 seconds prior to being tased.

According to the report, body-worn camera video shows Hartman, "in a lower volume" tell another officer, "Put your light on [Leyva.] I’m going to tase this guy." Officer Jacinto Melendrez then asked Hartman, "Want to tase him?" Hartman replied "Yep."

Cellphone video shows Sgt. Ryan Hartman shouted "come to me now! Come to me now!" to Leyva before he and Melendrez both deployed their tasers a split second later. Wood said the two did not give Leyva a chance to comply.

Buckey called the incident a premeditated act of violence.

Leyva’s phone was smashed when he fell to the ground. 

"It's pretty shocking to see Al go down like a ton of bricks," said Webber. 

Buckley took him to Mobile Geeks last week, where they were able to recover the video. Last Friday, Webber also had the opportunity to view body-camera footage in the case, something she said she has been fighting for, for two years. 

After viewing the video, she added Officers Luke Begwin and Jordan Perkins to the lawsuit she filed on Leyva’s behalf. Originally, they were only suing Hartman, Melendrez and the City of San Marcos. 

Webber explained Leyva filed the suit after learning of Pamela Watt’s story. 

"[Leyva] really decided to come forward and pursue a civil case because his hope is that Pam Watts achieves what she is trying to achieve, which is that this person, Ryan Hartman, never wears a badge, never has authority over people in Texas ever again," she said. 

On June 10, 2020, Hartman slammed into a vehicle driven by Watt’s partner, Jennifer Miller. Miller was killed, and Watts was severely injured. Several legal documents state Hartman declined a field sobriety test at the scene, though he claimed he was never offered one in a deposition. 

Body-camera video FOX 7 Austin obtained through an open records request shows a Lockhart police officer on the crash site tell another officer, "Double-check and make sure there’s no indicator of intoxication. If you smell any of that, take your mask down, make sure there are no indicators. Ask him if he’s had anything to drink, interview him. Make sure." 

Video shows the officer tasked with providing the field-sobriety test walk up to Hartman and tell him, "I’m sorry this had to happen today, but accidents happen. You’re in the same line of duty as we are. So, here’s my business card, alright." The officer then walked away. 

Officers found a 24-ounce can of Dos Equis in the cupholder of Hartman’s pickup truck along with beer salts. At this point, he was asked to provide a blood draw, but refused. 

"I have the right to choose. Sure, I want to cooperate, but at the same time I already caused the death of somebody by me not paying attention. So, I’m already going to get a lot of heat," he said. 

Three hours later, Lockhart officers obtained a warrant for the blood draw. It came back clean. 

Lockhart police labeled the case as "criminally negligent homicide." It was transferred to Bastrop County where District Attorney Bryan Goertz presented it to a Grand Jury as distracted driving. The Grand Jury declined to indict him. 

The only punishment Hartman received was a traffic ticket. The San Marcos Police Department did not discipline him. Watts, recovering from a traumatic brain injury, did not begin protesting until months after the crash. 

"How can you even pretend that that's a justice system? How can these people even live with themselves at night?" asked Watts, who said Miller was an "angel on Earth" in a 2021 interview with FOX 7 Austin. "I'm just so I'm so angry, I live enraged." 

Hartman was disciplined for tasing Leyva, but forfeited vacation time to forgo suspension. 

In July 2021, Hartman was suspended from the force without pay. A memorandum from Chief Stan Stanridge does not mention the Watt-Miller or Leyva cases, but said it was due to a series of administrative errors. 

In 2022, Hartman was given a general discharge, meaning he could still work at another police department. 

"I looked at the chief's memo and just I mean, I just couldn't believe it. You never see a chief of police go to this level of detail," said Webber. "Soon come to realize that the bigger story is that the chief did that because he's trying to cover up for the fact that he didn't discipline Hartman before."

A spokesperson for the San Marcos Police Department said no one with the agency could accommodate an interview request because of the "pending litigation."