No Criminal Indictment in Sanders Shooting

The criminal investigation into Nathaniel Sanders' death has come to a close

A Travis County grand jury on Aug. 5 declined to indict Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana for the May 11 shooting death of 18-year-old Nathaniel Sanders II in the parking lot of an East Austin apartment complex.

The shooting happened after Quintana spotted a gold Mercedes in the parking lot of the Walnut Creek apartments, a car earlier reported by residents as connected to random gunshots. Sanders was asleep in the back seat when Quintana approached. What happened next is a matter of debate: Police say Quintana tried to wake Sanders and that as the teen awoke, he grabbed for a gun tucked into his waistband. Quintana, they say, feared for his life and shot Sanders. (Another man, Sir Lawrence Smith, who was asleep in the front seat, was also shot but lived and was not charged with any crime.)

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said evidence showed that once Quintana saw the gun in Sanders' waistband, the two struggled, with Sanders leaning back away from the officer in order to maintain control of the weapon. "Quintana moved quickly backward, away from the door, and alerted his fellow officers that there was a gun," Lehmberg said in a prepared statement. From the rear of the car, Quintana then fired three times, striking Sanders once in the chest and a second time in the back of the head.

But Adam Loewy, the attorney representing Sanders' family, said that the evidence is not as straightforward as police and prosecutors say – and that the shot to the back of Sanders' head suggests Quintana was not in physical jeopardy at the time he shot the teen. "The Sanders family is very disappointed with the Grand Jury's decision not to criminally indict ... Quintana," he wrote. "We believe a civil jury will hold Officer Quintana accountable for his unlawful actions and use of excessive force, and we look forward to having this case heard in open court."

The grand jury's return signals the end of the criminal investigation into the shooting. Still pending is the administrative inquiry, which will determine whether Quintana broke any APD policies or procedures during the fatal incident.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Leonardo Quintana
APD Quintana Firing Upheld
APD Quintana Firing Upheld
Arbitrator says APD's charges against police officer were 'true'

Michael King, May 13, 2011

Quintana: Abused or Abuser?
Quintana: Abused or Abuser?
Quintana denies abusing former fiancée

Jordan Smith, March 4, 2011

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


Nate Sanders, Leonardo Quintana, Sir Lawrence Smith, Rosemary Lehmberg, Adam Loewy, Austin Police Department, police shooting

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle