AUSTIN (KXAN) -
A federal judge has sealed a taxpayer-funded independentinvestigation into the shooting death of Nathaniel Sanders II,killed by Austin police last May.
The 18-year-old was shot and killed by APD officer LeonardoQuintana, who was later reprimanded for not using his policedashboard camera, but was cleared of any wrongdoing in shootingSanders. Sanders' parents have filed a federal lawsuit against theCity of Austin and Quintana.
Now an independent investigation commissioned by the city - at acost of $50,000 to taxpayers - will be largely shrouded by thejudge's order.
Federal Judge Sam Sparks agreed with the city's argument that"unsubstantiated allegations" in the report should not be madepublic. A city attorney told Austin News that in their view, theyare only following state law that protects civil service employees.The Texas Attorney General's office also supported the city'sargument.
In the entire 133-page report, which outlines the strengths andweaknesses behind APD policy leading up to the shooting and thesubsequently internal investigation of it, there are only 28 pagesthat have not been partially or completely redacted. The publicwill not find out what was hidden after a judge on Tuesday grantedthe city's request for a protective order against allowing theredacted information to be revealed.
"They are hiding something, there's no doubt about it,”said Jim Harrington, Director of Texas Civil Rights Project.
Neither the Office of the Police Monitor, Chief Art Acevedo orCity Manager Marc Ott would go on camera - but Assistant CityAttorney Cary Grace released this statement:
"The Texas Attorney General agreed with the city's argument thatthe information concerning unsubstantiated allegations in the KeyStone report and internal affairs investigation isconfidential.”
With page after page blanked out, Jim Harrington with the TexasCivil Rights Project said there can only be one reason.
"The police department is trying to protect itself fromscrutiny. That's what this is about,” said Harrington.
The Austin Police Department has made changes to how it conductsinternal investigations since the shooting, and Acevedo releasedthis statement: “Protective Orders are commonly issued inlitigation and we have no additional comment to make.”
The City commissioned the report after the Office of the PoliceMonitor ordered an independent investigation into the internalinvestigation and the shooting.
What we do know from the Key Point Government Solutions reportis that they did find bias in the APD shooting investigation.
Harrington says what is blanked out because of the protectiveorder has to be much more revealing.
"To see the city and the judge hiding this information from thepublic that we've paid $50,000 for in tax payer money I think isalmost outrageous,” said Harrington.
Sanders' parents are alleging in the lawsuit that "APD'spolicymakers ratified and approved Quintana's misconduct… APDhas long tolerated the unconstitutional conduct by officers and thedisproportionate uses of force against minorities."
These are claims which, Austin civil rights leaders say, havebeen long-time issues. They say the protective order signed byfederal Judge Sparks chips away at the claims of transparency theCity of Austin and its police department have made.
"This raises a lot of doubt about the integrity of both theinvestigation and what the police have been doing,” saidHarrington.
After KXAN informed Harrington about the protective order hesaid Texas Civil Rights Project will file a lawsuit with the statein an effort to get the full report released.
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