$750,000 may settle police suit
city, family of man killed last year have OK’d terms in shooting lawsuit, sources say
The City of Austin has agreed to terms on a settlement that would end a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of Nathaniel Sanders II, who was fatally shot in May 2009 by senior police officer Leonardo Quintana.
According to multiple sources, who asked for anonymity because the agreement is not complete, the two sides have been in mediation and agreed to a $750,000 settlement. The City Council would still have to approve the deal.
City spokesman Reyne Telles said the council is scheduled to possibly vote on the settlement at its July 29 meeting. Telles said the city has asked for a delay in the case, which was scheduled to go to trial in less than two weeks. He declined to elaborate, leaving it unclear why the city’s lawyers pursued a settlement.
Sgt. Wayne Vincent, president of the Austin police union, said the organization has concerns that a settlement would send “an absolutely wrong message.” He said union officials will meet with council members in the coming days to express their concerns.
“I still hold out hope that the city is not going to cave on this,” he said. “This thing has been to the grand jury (which declined to indict Quintana); it has been investigated ad nauseam.”
Adam Loewy, an attorney representing the Sanders family, said, “We are pleased this case has been resolved.”
Quintana’s attorney, Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez, declined to comment and referred calls to the city. Police
Continued from A Police officer was fired after DWI arrest. Chief Art Acevedo was unavailable for comment Friday.
Quintana fatally shot Sanders on May 11, 2009, in an apartment complex parking lot after they struggled for a gun Sanders had at his waist, officials said.
Quintana was suspended for 15 days for not activating his patrol car camera but was not disciplined for his tactics or use of deadly force. But a consultant hired by the Police Department later determined that Quintana had used tactics that were so “reckless” that they may have been criminal.
Acevedo disagreed but later fired Quintana after a drunken driving arrest in January.
The shooting and its aftermath have roiled City Hall. At first the city would release only a version of the consultant’s report in which numerous portions were blacked out. Eventually a copy of the report was leaked to the AmericanStatesman, and critics said the city had blacked out so much of the report that its conclusions had been fundamentally altered.
The city then said it should not have withheld the unredacted version but did so because its legal staff misinterpreted a contract with the police union.
Then-City Attorney David Smith subsequently resigned under pressure from City Manager Marc Ott, and council members complained about the mishandling of the affair.
Sanders’ family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that named both the city government and Quintana individually. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the city from the suit June 27.
Previously, settlements over officer-involved shootings have been paid for with money from a reserve the city maintains to deal with liabilities.
The amount of the settlement is about $250,000 less than what the city paid in two previous officer-involved shootings. The city paid the family of Kevin Alexander Brown $1 million after he was fatally shot by an officer in 2007. In that case, Sgt. Michael Olsen was fired for his tactics leading up to the shooting outside Chester’s Club in East Austin.
A month after the Brown settlement, the city agreed to pay $1 million to the family of Daniel Rocha, who was shot June 9, 2005, by officer Julie Schroeder during a traffic stop.
Attorneys for the city had previously prevailed in court after it was named in lawsuits involving the shooting deaths of Sophia King, a mentally ill woman, in 2002 and Jesse Lee Owens in 2003.
Nathaniel Sanders II
was killed in struggle with police officer Leonardo Quintana.