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Former San Antonio Officer Charged With Shooting Unarmed Teen Eating In McDonald's Parking Lot

Former San Antonio Police Officer James Brennand was arrested and charged for the shooting of 17-year-old Erik Cantu in a McDonald's parking lot. Cantu's family says he is unconscious and on life support. 

By Constance Johnson
Cops Convicted Of Abusing Their Power

A fired San Antonio Police officer was charged on Tuesday in connection a shooting in a McDonald’s parking lot that critically injured a 17-year-old boy, Erik Cantu, who remains on life support.

James Brennand turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday night after being charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant, a first-degree felony, and was released after posting a $100,000 bond, according to court records.  

The shooting occurred on Oct. 2, and the rookie officer — who had been on the force for just seven months — was fired two days later.

“The shooting itself was unjustified, administratively and criminally,”  San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said during a news conference on Tuesday night, according to KSAT. He noted that neither Brennand or anyone else was in clear danger of harm before the shooting, and that the bullet holes in the vehicle indicate it was parallel to and driving away from Brennand when it was shot.

A teen girl was in the car with Cantu during the shooting but was uninjured, police said.

McManus said he held meetings with members of the Homicide Unit on multiple occasions to determine whether charges would be filed against the officer. He said they worked on an arrest warrant for several days, KSAT reported.

He said the two charges were based on Cantu’s shooting and the fact that there was a passenger in the car. One of the charges could be upgraded if Cantu does not survive, he added.

A police handout of James Brennand

The incident was captured on body-camera footage, which was released by police.

In the video, the narrator says that Brennand was investigating an unrelated disturbance call at McDonald’s shortly before 11:00 p.m. when he spotted a car he recognized because he'd attempted to stop it the previous night for allegedly having a license plate registered to a different car — which can be a sign of a stolen vehicle. The vehicle had evaded him the night before, and he made a call for back up, police said.

In the video, the officer is seen walking up to the car without warning and opening the car door, ordering Cantu — who had his hamburger in one hand and his phone in the other and was sitting in the driver's seat — to get out of the car. The teen is then seen putting the car in reverse and turning the wheel to exit the parking spot with the door still open. Brennand came in contact with the car door as Cantu reversed and he attempted to hold onto the frame. He lost his grip as the car continued to back up, and then the video shows him opening fire on the vehicle that was poised to drive away, the door of which was, by then, closed.

The driver of vehicle then clearly shifted into drive and Brennand opened fire again as Cantu drove away.  

Police said Cantu and his teenage passenger were found about a block away. Both he and his passenger had "exited" the vehicle, and Cantu had been hit multiple times.

It's not known if he had been driving the vehicle during the prior night's attempted traffic stop.

“The video was horrific," McManus said, according to KHOU. “There’s no question in anybody’s body mind looking at the video that that the shooting is not justified. And it took us a couple of days to terminate Brennand, but he was gone pretty quickly.”

Cantu remains unconscious and on life support.  

“There is no improvement in his condition,” the family said in a statement from their attorney, Brian Powers, the Associated Press reported. “The last two days have been difficult, and we expect more difficulty ahead, but we remain hopeful.” 

Cantu was initially charged with evading detention in a vehicle and assault on a police officer, but the charges were later dropped. He was not charged with stealing it.

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