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City Council Votes To Settle Sanders Lawsuit For $750,000

Callie Hernandez/KUT News.
The Austin City Council Thursday morning voted to approve a settlement with the family of Nathaniel Sanders II who was shot and killed by Austin Police in 2009.

After much time, emotion and discussion the Austin City Council has voted to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Nathaniel Sanders II. Sanders was fatally shot by an Austin police officer in 2009.

The Council’s vote this morning was 5-2, with Mayor Lee Leffingwell and  Council Member Mike Martinez voting against the $750,000 settlement. The Council last year had rejected the settlement and the case appeared to be headed for trial.  Officer Leonardo Quintana shot Sanders after he said the two struggled for a gun. The incident sparked heated debate about police and minority community relations. 

Before this morning’s vote, some Austinites spoke up in favor of the settlement.  The shooting happened in Antonio Bigger’s neighborhood in Northeast Austin. Bigger told council members he was not proud of how the city handled the Sanders case.

“We lost a lot of face, a lot of faith in you guys, and so hopefully this settlement will bring some closure and we can move forward to healing," said Bigger. "I hope that everybody up here will continue to work for better relations within the community and addressing police brutality."

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole sponsored the resolution to settle. From the dais this morning, Cole said she believed it was time for closure.

"Sometimes in our community we face issues that we wish were easier and then we realize the challenge was put there to make us stronger, wiser and even better," Cole said.

Cole also said going to trial would have been too risky for the city.

"We do not know if we go to trial if we will receive a zero verdict or if we will receive a multi-million dollar verdict," she said. "We simply do not know. And based on the information that we currently have I do not think that this is a risk that we should take. ”

Austin’s police union opposed the settlement.  A year ago Mayor Lee Leffingwell said he voted to go to trial so more facts of the case would emerge and the city could learn exactly what happened that day. This morning Leffingwell made brief remarks.

“You know we dealt with this approximately a year ago, reviewed all the facts, got numerous briefings," said Leffingwell. "Based on the information that I received at that time I voted not to approve it then.  Nothing has changed so I will continue to vote against it because I believe it’s in the best interest of the community. ”

The decision to revisit the Sanders settlement came after newly elected council member Kathie Tovo expressed she would vote in favor of it, as she did this morning.