San Antonio, TX – The officer who repeatedly shot a 17-year-old suspect after he hit the cop with his car door while trying to flee the scene of an investigation earlier this month was “not justified” in using deadly force and is expected to be criminally charged, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus announced on Tuesday.
Chief McManus described bodycam footage of the incident as “horrific,” CNN reported.
“There is no question in anybody’s mind looking at that video that the shooting is not justified,” he said.
Chief McManus noted that San Antonio Police Department (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 Oct. 2 officer-involved shooting and saw the location of the bullet holes in the vehicle 17-year-old Erik 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.”
SAPD Officer James Brennand was fired by the SAPD on Oct. 5, following an internal review of the officer-involved shooting, WOAI reported.
“It took us a couple of days to terminate Brennand, but he was gone pretty quickly,” Chief McManus told CNN.
Cantu remained hospitalized in critical condition on Sunday, according to CNN.
Chief McManus said he expects the now-former officer to be charged with two counts of aggravated assault by the end of this week, CNN reported.
The chief noted Brennand could face a homicide charge if Cantu does not survive.
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 injured during the incident.
Cantu’s attorney, Brian Powers, told CNN on Saturday that his client is “literally fighting for his life every minute of the day as his body has endured a tremendous amount of trauma.”
“We need all the blessings we can receive at this time,” Powers added. “We kindly ask for privacy beyond this update as this is a delicate moment in our lives, and we are focusing on one thing and that’s getting him home.”
It is unclear whether the vehicle involved in the incident was stolen.
Cantu was initially charged by proxy with assault on an officer and evading detention in a vehicle, KSAT reported.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a statement that his office 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,” Chief 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.”
Officer Brennand 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.