City Votes to Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit

It’s the vote that Council member Sheryl Cole hopes will finally unite the community.

“I believe it is time for closure. I move approval mayor,” said Cole. $750,000 to settle the lawsuit the family of Nathaniel Sanders filed against the City of Austin. Going to federal court, Cole says, is a risk not worth taking.

“Everybody knows attorneys cost a lot of money and a trial doesn’t guarantee anything it’s a roll of the dice at best,” said Cole.

According to city staff it would cost about less than $100,000 in attorneys fees to take the case to court. The lawsuit was filed after former APD Ofc. Lenny Quintana shot and killed Nathaniel Sanders while they struggled for a gun in 2009.

Quintana was cleared by a grand jury of any wrongdoing but an independent report said the officer had used excessive force. It’s a case that has divided council since they first took up the settlement offer more than a year ago. In July 2010 it was Council Member Chris Riley who was said to be he swing vote. Thursday his mind was set.

“I look forward to continuing to work with folks in the community to address these issues and I think resolving this case is a first step in the right direction so I will be supporting the motion” said Riley.

A majority vote is enough to close the chapter on the lawsuit, but for community activists like Nelson Linder the lack of support from the Mayor draws some strong words.

“I think he doesn’t get it, I think he’s a poor leader and I think he showed it at the end of the day,” said Linder. On the other side of that argument is Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent, who says by settling the lawsuit the city is throwing its officers under the bus.

“City leadership has no confidence in this case and they worry about cases in the future. Is this just going to be every time something goes wrong out there the police officer is going to get the blame and the city is just going to pay somebody off?” said Vincent.

Cole said by no means is settling an admission of guilty or wrong-doing by the city or Quintana. The Sanders family attorney said they are “pleased that the issue has been resolved.”

Along with the settlement for Sanders, the city also approved to settle the lawsuit filed by Sander’s passenger that night Sir Lawrence Smith. He was also shot by Quintana that night, and survived. The settlement in that suit was $175,000.