AUSTIN (CN) – The parents of an 18-year-old who was fatally shot in the head by an Austin police officer while sleeping in a car say the city “shamefully succumbed to petty politics” by backing out of a $750,000 wrongful death settlement.
According to Yulonda and Nathaniel Sanders Sr., Officer Leonardo Quintana shot their son in the back of the head while he was asleep in a car. They say the city’s police department “conducted a wildly corrupt and biased investigation,” ignoring forensic evidence and eye-witness testimony, covering up Quintana’s nine prior excessive force investigations, and suppressing the fact that Quintana “openly bragged” on Facebook about “unlawfully and shooting and killing Sanders.”
On July 8, the city and Quintana allegedly agreed to settle the Sanders’ federal wrongful death claims for $750,000.
But as soon as news of the settlement leaked to the media, “all hell broke loose,” the Sanders claim in Travis County Court.
“The Austin Police Association embarked on a massive media and political campaign to derail the settlement,” they claim.
The association’s representatives allegedly visited city council members “over 150 times in a 3-week span and sent hundreds of emails to them.” They also convinced members of the Chamber of Commerce to pressure city council members into backing out of the settlement.
“More egregiously, certain City of Austin representatives (including City Councilman Mike Martinez, Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Police Chief Art Acevedo) publicly attacked the settlement and made defamatory statements about Plaintiffs on television, radio and in the newspaper,” the lawsuit states.
On July 29, the city council “voted to breach the agreement,” the Sanders say.
“This was a historic moment because it was the first time ever that the City of Austin had authorized their lawyers to negotiate a binding settlement agreement – and then decided to breach that same agreement,” the complaint states.
The Sanders say city council members have since “begged” them to renegotiate the settlement for $500,000.
“This sort of behavior by City leadership is shameful and despicable,” the Sanders claim.
They are suing Quintana and Austin for breach of contract and fraud, and are represented by Adam J. Loewy with Barry & Loewy LLP.