Eastside Police Shooting: One Man Dead, One Wounded

Officials ask for calm and patience from the community

Nathaniel Sanders II
Nathaniel Sanders II (Courtesy of American Youthworks)

Another young black man has been shot dead by Austin police.

That was the reality faced by a grim group of city officials Monday afternoon at City Hall, although the specific details of the shooting on Springdale Road very early Monday morning are not yet completely clear. Eighteen-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II was shot and killed about 5am Monday, as police were attempting to arrest him and two other men parked in a car at the Walnut Creek apartment complex at 6409 Springdale, near Manor Road. According to preliminary police reports, Sanders was shot when he apparently reached for a gun in his waistband; a handgun was found on the seat beside him. A second man, 21-year-old Sir Lawrence Smith, was also shot when he allegedly charged police; he's in stable condition at Brackenridge Hospital and is expected to recover. A third man, still unnamed, was detained without other incident but apparently not arrested. Police later identified the Austin Police Department officer as eight-year veteran Leonardo Quintana, who has been placed on administrative leave until the official investigation is complete. This is the first controversial police shooting under the administration of Police Chief Art Acevedo, who became chief in June 2007; the most recent police shooting was of Kevin Brown on June 3, just weeks before Acevedo took charge.

"First, we offer our condolences to the families" whose members were involved in the shooting, began Mayor Will Wynn in City Council chambers Monday. "We're lucky to live in a safe city in which police shootings are uncommon. But we must follow the appropriate procedure and discipline ... through the ongoing criminal and administrative investigation." Standing among a large group of officials that included City Manager Marc Ott and Acevedo, several assistant chiefs, as well as numerous current and newly elected City Council members, Wynn asked for public patience and calm and a willingness to wait for the results of the official investigations. That was partly in response to a midmorning disturbance at the apartment complex as people gathered around the shooting scene. Onlookers reportedly first began shouting at officers, and then some briefly threw rocks and bottles before additional officers arrived and calm was restored. Acevedo said eight officers received minor injuries and eight police cars were damaged.

A man who identified himself as King Tut speaks out against the police shooting at a gathering that took place across the street from where it occurred, at the 6400 block of Springdale Road on May 11.
A man who identified himself as King Tut speaks out against the police shooting at a gathering that took place across the street from where it occurred, at the 6400 block of Springdale Road on May 11. (Photo by John Anderson)

According to Acevedo's brief summary of the events, as yet unconfirmed, over the weekend police had staked out at the complex a white cargo van they believed had been involved in recent armed robberies; when no one returned to the van, it was impounded. Although the connection to the van is unclear, police also received complaints from residents in recent nights that men in or near a Mercedes-Benz station wagon were firing guns into the air. Early Monday morning, Quintana approached the Mercedes in which the men were sleeping and woke and arrested the man in the driver's seat without incident. When he returned to the car for the other occupants, Quintana reportedly saw Sanders reach for a weapon in his waistband and shot Sanders. The third man reportedly jumped from the passenger seat and charged Quintana, who shot him. Acevedo said a handgun was recovered from the seat where Sanders had been sitting.

According to Acevedo, the officer "feared for his life" and responded according to his training in that circumstance. Asked by a reporter if a Taser had been an option, the chief said the officer must use "deadly force against a gun – that's the way we're trained."

Acevedo also said that the officer's in-car video had not been turned on during the incident but that at least one of the two backup cars did provide some in-car video – how much or what was recorded is not confirmed. Acevedo described audio of the officer shouting "32!" – the code for an armed suspect – but otherwise did not describe what the available video shows. He repeated the request that the community be "patient" and allow the criminal and administrative investigations to proceed.

Police Monitor Clifford Brown was among the officials present. He offered his condolences to the family and emphasized afterward that the police monitor's office would be asking all the questions necessary to the investigation and following everything that happens. "We will make certain that the investigation is done fairly, completely, and impartially," he said. Earlier Monday, Brown and local NAACP President Nelson Linder reportedly helped calm the crowd.

The somber mood in the council room reverberated from the grimmer scene on Springdale Road. Afterward Wynn briefly discussed efforts in the making to reach out to Eastside residents for "dialogue" – "beginning with the churches" – and cited the reportedly restrained response of Nathaniel Sanders Sr. to the news of his son's death. "The father of the young man showed remarkable restraint and patience," Wynn said. "He sets a remarkable example for us all."

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Nathaniel Sanders II, Art Acevedo, Kevin Brown, Leonardo Quintana, Marc Ott, Clifford Brown

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