An arbitrator reinstated Austin police Officer Leonardo Quintana on Thursday after five months off the force following a drunken driving offense earlier this year.
Quintana’s indefinite suspension for the DWI was not appropriate because the discipline was not consistent with those of other Austin Police Department officers who also were convicted of the same offense, wrote arbitrator Louise Wolitz. She reduced his suspension to 15 days.
Quintana, a center of controversy after the May 2009 shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II, petitioned for reinstatement after his suspension in May. In addition to the DWI charges, Quintana faces two lawsuits related to his involvement in the shooting of the 18-year-old Sanders and 22-year-old Sir Lawrence Smith in 2009.
“Officer Quintana is reminded that he now has two 15-day suspensions on his record,” Wolitz wrote. “Any further disciplinary violations may again lead to indefinite suspension.”
APD officials said in a statement they were disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision and that management stands by its original decision. They declined to comment further.
During Quintana’s Sept. 2-3 reinstatement hearing, police Chief Art Acevedo testified that the officer had too many lapses in judgement throughout his nearly 10-year career with the department, including a trespass charge and his failure to turn on his dashboard camera before the Sanders shooting.
Quintana was patrolling the streets in May 2009 when he spotted a car reported at several crime scenes in the area. Smith and Sanders were sleeping in the car as a driver took them to an apartment complex in East Austin. According to court records, the driver got out of the car and Quintana detained him. The officer attempted to physically wake the passengers and startled them, causing Sanders to pull out his gun, court records show. Quintana shot Smith in the chest and fatally shot Sanders while his dashboard camera was off.
Smith filed a lawsuit against the officer Tuesday on the grounds that Quintana “acted willfully, deliberately, maliciously or with reckless disregard for plaintiff’s clearly established constitutional rights against the use of unreasonable, necessary and excessive force.” Smith demanded an undisclosed amount for damages — including medical expenses, lost wages and disfigurement — and a jury trial.
Quintana also faces another lawsuit, filed in September, by the Sanders family after City Council members rejected a $750,000 settlement in July. The family’s attorney, Adam Loewy, declined to comment on Quintana’s reinstatement.