The Austin Chronicle

CRP Requests Outside Investigation of Sanders Shooting

By Jordan Smith, August 21, 2009, News

At press time, members of the city's police oversight panel, the Citizen Review Panel, officially requested an outside, independent investigation into the police shooting death of Nathaniel Sanders II. An independent investigator will now review the work done by Austin Police Internal Affairs detectives and determine if the investigation was complete and if it reached a sound conclusion about whether Officer Leonardo Quintana followed training, policy, and procedure during the early morning incident on May 11 that ended with Sanders' death.

Austin Police Monitor Cliff Brown and the Citizen Review Panel members heard public comment on Aug. 18 regarding Sanders' death. Among those who took the podium was Verna Smith, mother of Sir Smith, who was shot in the chest (and lived) during the incident in the parking lot of the Walnut Creek apartments. Her son was acting responsibly that night, she said. He'd been out drinking and, knowing he couldn't drive home, called a friend to pick him up – he was asleep in the front seat of his car, she said, and woke to gunfire. "Officer Quintana did not act responsibly" that night, she said. He didn't follow police procedure, which requires him to turn on his in-car camera, and he didn't announce himself as police or give Sanders and her son a chance to surrender before opening fire.

Sir Smith's attorney, Skip Davis, also addressed the panel to remind it that two people were injured by Quintana's actions – if the bullet that hit Smith in the chest had struck him just a quarter-inch to the left, it would have struck his heart, and "we would have two fatalities," he said. Davis questioned whether the police even had probable cause to "interfere" with the lives of Sanders and Sir Smith while they were asleep and "not breaking the law." That is an "extraordinary question that seems to have been overlooked," he said. He also called on the panel to request from District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg transcripts of testimony before the grand jury that declined to indict Quintana, to see how the case was presented to jurors and whether questions about the shooting were presented fully and adequately answered.

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