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Police try to answer questions in death of eastside teenager

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 by Austin Monitor

On Monday, an Austin police officer shot and killed a teenager in the back seat of a car, causing Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to face his first severe crisis as chief.


Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana shot and killed Nathaniel Sanders, 18, and also shot a second suspect, Sir Lawrence Smith, 21. Smith was reportedly in stable condition at University Medical Center at Brackenridge last night. Both were shot at the Walnut Creek Apartments at 6409 Springdale Road near Manor Road.


The police were investigating a rash of gun crimes in the area. They were looking for men in a champagne colored Mercedes-Benz station wagon. They found a car meeting that description at the Walnut Creek Apartments, with Smith, Sanders and a third man in it. Sanders was asleep when police approached, and when he awoke he reached for a weapon and Officer Quintana shot him dead. Smith, who was passed out in the passenger seat, awoke and reportedly ran toward Quintana, who shot him as well (but not fatally).


At an afternoon press conference, Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters, “I have questions like everybody else, but in terms of the initial shots fired, based on what I know today standing here, I am confident in the legality,” of the officer’s actions.


The Statesman reported that there is not a video of the incident from Quintana’s vehicle-mounted camera. The cameras are standard issue for all cruisers and most begin recording automatically when the patrol car’s sirens are activated. However, Acevedo later said that one of the three patrol cars did have a camera running at the time of the shooting.


In an editorial posted to the, the newspaper opined that the lack of a video was a “troubling issue that is stoking distrust and causing rumors to fly.” It continued, “now there will be questions and suspicions about why the officer failed to activate the camera, and Acevedo and other officials must answer those questions directly and swiftly.”


Some members of the community reacted by throwing bottles and rocks at police after learning of the shooting. APD spokeswoman Anna Sabana said eight vehicles were damaged and eight officers were injured at the scene. Sabana said one person was charged with assault on a peace officer, a third degree felony; a second person was charged with both assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. The latter is a Class A misdemeanor.


Sanders had already developed a rap sheet, the Statesman wrote. He was arrested Thursday in connection with an armed robbery at an ATM downtown and was released after paying $8,000 to a local bail bond company to bail him out. The newspaper also reported that Sanders had been arrested in 2008 for possession of 35 grams of crack and a loaded 9mm.


Quintana is an eight-and-a-half year veteran of the force with a history of positive reviews. According to APD officials, he received the “superior service citation, the Commanders’ Recognition award in 2007, and the CMT Campaign Ribbon for his service in the department’s riot control unit.” He also had one 15-day suspension on his record related to an off-duty event. As per standard procedure, Quintana is on indefinite paid administrative leave.

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