APD Examines Bias in Sanders Investigation

The focus has narrowed on an Internal Affairs investigator

Friends of Nate Sanders gathered at his funeral, some wearing T-shirts with statements about the shooting.
Friends of Nate Sanders gathered at his funeral, some wearing T-shirts with statements about the shooting. (Photo by John Anderson)

According to Austin Police Chief Art Ace­ve­do, the department is investigating an Internal Affairs detective involved in the administrative inquiry into the shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II to determine whether the detective exhibited bias toward the officer involved, Officer Leonardo Quintana.

Quintana shot and killed Sanders – and wounded another man, Sir Smith – during an early morning incident in the Walnut Creek apartments parking lot on May 11. Quintana said that when he tried to roust Sanders, who was passed out in the backseat of a car parked at the complex, the 18-year-old grabbed for a gun tucked in his waistband. Quintana shot Sanders twice – once in the shoulder and once in the back of the head – killing him. Another shot struck Smith in the chest.

As part of the IA investigation to determine whether Quintana violated department policy during the fatal encounter, Detective Chris Dunn allegedly sent an e-mail to colleagues suggesting that investigators review Sanders' and Smith's criminal histories to determine whether that information could be used to "make him/them a causation of the entire event." (Sources have confirmed the content of the e-mail but have not provided a copy to the Chronicle.) The criminal history of a civilian involved in a police encounter would be relevant in a criminal investigation but is irrelevant in an administrative inquiry, where the actions of the officer – and whether that officer followed training, policy, and procedure – are the focus. In an IA inquiry, said Acevedo, "We're not interested in a subject's criminal history. The suspect's actions and the officer's actions are what we're looking at." Dunn has been removed from his duties with IA while the investigation is pending.

A heavily redacted report from KeyPoint Government Services – which, at the request of the Citizen Review Panel, conducted an independent review of the Austin Police Department investigation into the shooting – concluded that the IA inquiry was, indeed, biased in favor of Quintana. That report prompted the new internal inquiry into Dunn's actions. "I'll be real honest," Acevedo said last week. "Internal Affairs is the gatekeeper of the APD, and even the slightest hint of bias I have a problem with, and I think that most of our folks do, too." The entire department is "damaged" by a biased investigation, he said, "and I am going to hold people accountable if I [find] out bias is demonstrated in an investigation." Under civil service law, Acevedo has until Nov. 7 to decide whether Quintana should be disciplined for his actions during the shooting.

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Chris Dunn, Art Acevedo, Nathaniel Sanders, Austin Police Department, internal affairs, police shooting

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