Acevedo deflects accusations of cover-up in fatal shooting investigation

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  1. CowboyMcCoy

    CowboyMcCoy Business is a Boomin

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    Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo on Saturday rejected accusations that the city covered up critical findings from an independent report on a fatal shooting by an Austin police officer.

    The full report by KeyPoint Government Solutions, commissioned by the City of Austin to shed light on the 2009 shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II, concluded that police officer Leonardo Quintana used excessive deadly force and was reckless in his tactics.

    Those conclusions — which contradicted Acevedo's own ruling — were redacted from the version of the report made public last fall. An unredacted copy was leaked to the American-Statesman last week by a man who did not identify himself.

    Jim Harrington , director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said Saturday that withholding that information in such a heated case smacked of a cover-up.

    "This really undercuts everything the city has done over the past two, three years to rebuild confidence in the Police Department," Harrington said. "If you can't trust them on this, what can you trust them on?"

    At a hastily called news conference, Acevedo said a federal court and state law prohibit him from releasing the complete information.

    "Above all else, we have to obey the law," Acevedo said. "We can't break the law simply because it is a feel-good thing."

    Acevedo described the suggestion that he was hiding the report's conclusions as "offensive, inflammatory \u2026 and irresponsible."

    He reiterated his own conclusion that Quintana's actions were "objectively reasonable and within Austin Police Department policy."

    The police monitor and its citizens review panel saw the full report and reached the same conclusion as Acevedo, who has said the community will agree when all the evidence is released, as the federal case unfolds.

    When asked if the city manager had read an unredacted report, Acevedo responded that City Manager Marc Ott had been told about its contents but had only received a redacted version.

    Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the City Council, however, were not privy to the full details of the report because state law kept them from getting access to the information, Leffingwell said.

    "Like everyone, I'm troubled by the findings of the report and intend to review the matter fully with the city manager and police chief," he said.

    Nelson Linder, president of the Austin branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Acevedo erred in not firing Quintana last year. He noted the strong language used by authors of the

    KeyPoint report to describe Quintana's actions.

    "I just thought they were outraged by what they saw," Linder said. "I think they were offended by it personally. I think they called it the way they saw it."

    Linder said he is thankful that the city sought the independent review last year.

    Officials have said that Quintana shot Sanders — who had been asleep in the back of a Mercedes-Benz station wagon in the parking lot of an East Austin apartment complex — when the two struggled for a gun that Sanders had at his waist.

    The shooting sparked unrest, and a crowd later gathered at the scene. Some spectators shattered patrol car windows and hurled bottles and other objects at officers.

    On Thursday, Acevedo fired Quintana over Quintana's drunken-driving arrest in Williamson County in January. The arrest came the morning after Quintana had been questioned for more than six hours as part of a federal lawsuit filed by Sanders' family.

    Quintana plans to appeal the firing.; 445-3618; 445-3605

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