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Leffingwell leaning against proposed settlement in APD shooting

Tuesday, July 20, 2010 by Austin Monitor

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Monday “at this point I’m leaning against” a $750,000 settlement for the family of Nathaniel Sanders. The Sanders family sued the City of Austin and APD Officer Leonardo Quintana alleging wrongful death in the police shooting of their teenage son in May 2009.

 

Federal Judge Sam Sparks has dismissed the suit against the city but the city is paying for Quintana’s defense.

 

Leffingwell said he would not want to support the settlement if it left the false impression that the city was admitting to any wrongdoing in the case as indicated by the family’s attorney, Adam Loewy, in remarks made to the media last week. At the time, Loewy called the shooting “unjustified.” The Mayor said Loewy’s remarks were insulting.

 

“It was a tragic incident but we have a responsibility to protect the city’s integrity…it does constitute an insult to the entire city, including APD,” he said.

 

Leffingwell also called the proposed settlement “unduly large,” saying that he would not want to pay more than the city might spend in defending itself against the suit. He estimated that figure to be more in the $200,000-$250,000 range.

 

A grand jury no-billed Quintana but he was briefly suspended for failing to activate his dashboard camera. The officer was recently fired for allegedly driving while intoxicated, an incident unrelated to the shooting.

 

Austin Police Association President Sgt. Wayne Vincent was spotted in the hallway leaving a City Council office Monday. Asked whether he was getting commitments to vote against the settlement, Vincent said the organization was not seeking such commitments. “The only thing that we are doing is letting the Council know our position and the position of the officers we represent,” he said.

 

Vincent last week sent a strong letter to the Mayor and Council voicing the APA’s opposition to the settlement.

 

Council Member Randi Shade told In Fact Daily via email, “I have questions and concerns re: settlement proposal and won’t issue a statement about how I will vote until after I am fully briefed.”  

 

Council Member Bill Spelman also said he has not yet made up his mind about the settlement.

 

However, he pointed out that if the city entered into an agreement, the city would not admit any wrongdoing and the Sanders family would not claim there was any. “It would simply reduce everybody’s uncertainty as to what would happen once we got into a courtroom,’ he said. “That’s what settlements are all about…you pick something that both sides can live with and that’s often a better resolution for both sides. If the city were required to admit wrongdoing of some sort, I agree that would be a deal-breaker. But that’s not part of the settlement, and my gut reaction is to wonder why the police association is so worried about something which isn’t going to happen.”

 

The city paid larger settlements in the last two police shooting cases.

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