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APD Chief, community leaders talk race relations in Austin

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Before the fallout from the city's handling of the investigations into the Nathaniel Sanders shooting, Police Chief Art Acevedo was seen by many as a bridge to ease racial tensions in the city.

Now, community leaders are asking for accountability.

Reverend Sterling Lands II is a pastor at the Greater Cavalry Bible Church in East Austin and a respected leader in the African American community.

He said in order for leaders to address racial problems in the city, the community has to continually bring the issue to the surface.

"Racism is alive and well in this nation, not just in Austin,” Lands said. "You got to keep raising the issue until something is finally said or something is finally done."

Officer Quintana's use of force, the morning of May 11, 2009, has been under heavy public scrutiny since the day of the shooting.

Nathaniel Sanders II was killed by Quintana. Sir Lawrence Smith was also shot by the officer, but he survived.

Chief Acevedo defends the police investigation into the shooting, and defends his place in the East Austin community.

"I am confident that the majority of the people that supported me last week support me this week. I have seen no difference with people as I have my interactions with the people I take in the city," Acevedo said.

  • John Salazar: So you're not concerned that your reputation in this case is on the line?

  • Police Chief Art Acevedo: When you look at the fact that the report was not released, when it could have been released, yeah that bothers me.

Acevedo said the advice provided by the city's legal department was not sound, and the decision to withhold crucial elements of the KeyPoint report shines a bad light on his department.

Although he is fighting a public relations campaign, he insists truth is on his side.

"When the moment is right, and I am able to speak freely, I think that people that will place aside emotion, remove the prism of history, and focus specifically on the facts, specifically around the issues of that one incident, most reasonable people, will support our conclusions,” Acevedo said.

Despite that response, Reverend Lands believes asking for police accountability, in the Sanders case, may not be as cut and dry as the Chief believes.

"We're asking him to come to the front of the line and be responsible and accountable to the community,” Lands said.

  • John Salazar: Do you believe he will do that?

  • Rev. Sterling Lands: Well he said he would.

  • John Salazar: Do you believe he will do that?

  • Rev. Sterling Lands: You know I think the jury is still out.

Nathanial Sanders' family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and former APD Officer Leonardo Quintana, who fired the shots.

That case is set to go to trial in July. Quintana said he saw Sanders reaching for a gun.

Chief Acevedo said he's looking forward to presenting his case to the courts.

Acevedo had concluded Quintana's only wrongdoing was failing to turn on his dashboard camera, and Acevedo placed Quintana on a 15-day suspension.

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