San Antonio, TX – The now-former San Antonio police officer who repeatedly shot a 17-year-old suspect in the parking lot of a McDonald’s after he hit the cop with his car door while trying to flee the scene of an investigation has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault.
A grand jury indicted former San Antonio Police Department Officer James Brennand on Dec. 1, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales confirmed during a press conference later that day, according to KSAT.
Brennand, 28, has been charged with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the Oct. 2 officer-involved shooting of 17-year-old Erik Cantu.
Gonzales further announced that he plans to seek the maximum sentence on all charges, KSAT reported.
Brennand faces up to 20 years in prison on the attempted murder charge and between five and 99 years on each of the aggravated assault charges.
“Justice means obtaining a conviction,” Gonzales declared during the press conference, according to KSAT. “Justice means making sure that man never works as a member of law enforcement — making sure that man never has a gun and a badge.”
Cantu’s attorney, the notorious Ben Crump who also represented the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, said his client and his family were relieved to learn of the indictment.
“The grand jury’s decision to indict on an attempted murder charge and two counts of aggravated assault is a significant step toward justice –– but there is still a long road ahead. We will continue to fight for accountability and transparency through the legal process,” Crump said in a statement to KSAT.
Brennand’s attorney, Nico LaHood, said his client has been “tried in the court of public opinion without the benefit of his side of the story being known,” CNN reported.
“We anticipate more information will be revealed that will further shed light on this incident,” LaHood added.
Brennand remained out of jail on bond, CNN reported.
The incident began at approximately 10:45 p.m. on Oct. 2, when the SAPD received a report of a disturbance outside a McDonald’s restaurant located in the 11700-block of Blanco Road, according to KSAT.
According to a police report, Officer Brennand responded to the scene and was gathering information about the disturbance from witnesses when he spotted a vehicle that he believed had fled from him during an attempted traffic stop one day earlier.
Police said that matter was not connected to the disturbance outside the restaurant that Officer Brennand had responded to investigate, KSAT reported.
The rookie cop had attempted to stop the vehicle the day prior after noticing that the license plate didn’t match the car, according to the report.
He said he believed the car had been stolen, so he immediately called for backup when he spotted the vehicle again during the unrelated disturbance investigation, KSAT reported.
Instead of waiting for additional units to arrive, Officer Brennand approached the suspect vehicle and pulled the driver’s door open, bodycam footage showed.
Cantu and his 17-year-old female passenger were sitting inside, eating their food.
“Get out of the car,” Officer Brennand said, just before Cantu set his food down and put the car into reverse, the video showed.
As the officer reached into the vehicle to grab ahold of the teen, Cantu began accelerating backwards, striking Officer Brennand with the open driver’s door, KSAT reported.
That’s when the officer opened fire, according to police.
Cantu was able to shift the car into drive and started driving away, at which point Officer Brennand fired more rounds at the fleeing vehicle, bodycam footage showed.
The officer fired approximately 10 rounds altogether, the video showed.
Police located the teens inside the car near Blanco and Parliament, approximately one block away from where the officer-involved shooting occurred, KSAT reported.
Cantu had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Police said Officer Brennand performed CPR on the teen before emergency medical personnel rushed him to University Hospital, KSAT reported.
The 17-year-old female passenger was not physically injured during the incident.
Cantu remained hospitalized for more than a month and spent time on life support prior to being released to continue his recovery at home in early November, KSAT reported.
Investigators ultimately concluded that the license plates on the vehicle Cantu was driving at the time of the officer-involved shooting didn’t match the vehicle, but that the car was not stolen, according to the New York Post.
Cantu was initially charged by proxy with assault on an officer and evading detention in a vehicle, KSAT reported.
Gonzales rejected those charges pending further investigation, CNN reported.
He further noted that Cantu was “unarmed” at the time of the shooting.
Officer Brennand suffered minor injuries to his legs during the incident after being hit by the car door while the teen attempted to flee, according to WOAI.
He was treated at the scene.
Investigators concluded the rookie officer violated the department’s “tactics, training, and procedures,” according to CNN.
“There is nothing I can say in defense of that officer’s actions that night,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told WOAI, acknowledging that the officer was hit by the fleeing suspect’s car door. “I think what happened, initially, there was some contact made, but that did not justify the shooting.”
Chief McManus noted that SAPD policy prohibits officers from shooting at moving vehicles unless their life or the life of someone else “is in immediate danger,” CNN reported.
The chief said that when he arrived at the scene of the officer-involved shooting and saw the location of the bullet holes in the vehicle Cantu had been driving, he immediately knew there was a problem.
“I had an issue with it right away,” he told CNN. “You can tell by looking at the vehicles, which way the vehicle is moving when the shots are fired, and this vehicle, it was very telling to me, that this vehicle was moving away from the officer, and moving parallel with the officer, so it was pretty clear to me at that point that we were going to have an issue.”
Officer Brennand was fired by the SAPD on Oct. 5, following an internal review of the officer-involved shooting, WOAI reported.
He had been with the department for just seven months.
Because he was on a standard one-year probationary status after graduating from the police academy, the now-former officer cannot appeal his firing, WOAI reported.