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What are the charges against James Brennand? Ousted rookie cop who shot Erik Cantu, 17, arrested

The police chief said it was clear from the beginning that the shooting was 'not justified'
UPDATED OCT 13, 2022
Texas police officer James Brennand turns himself in after shooting a teenager, Erik Cantu, in McDonald’s parking lot (James Brennand/Facebook and San Antonio Police Department/YouTube)
Texas police officer James Brennand turns himself in after shooting a teenager, Erik Cantu, in McDonald’s parking lot (James Brennand/Facebook and San Antonio Police Department/YouTube)

Update: Former Texas police officer James Brennand who shot and critically injured an unarmed 17-year-old Erik Cantu in his car has been arrested and faces charges of aggravated assault, the San Antonio Police Department said. The former cop turned himself in to the police on Tuesday, October 12.

Cantu's family said on October 12 that the teen is "still unconscious and is on life support." When asked if officers had considered more serious charges if Cantu dies, San Antonio police chief McManus said: "If he does not make it then the charges will change."


SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: James Brennand, a former San Antonio police officer who shot an unarmed 17-year-old eating cheeseburger in his car at a McDonald’s parking lot turned himself in at the San Antonio police department on October 11. He is facing two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant, the police department said on October 11.

The rookie cop was fired over the shooting that left Erik Cantu in serious condition on October 2. Police Chief William McManus stated that each individual who was there was charged with severe assault. The driver and a passenger of the automobile, according to the chief, were both charged with aggravated assault. According to McManus, the shooting "was unjustified, both criminally and administratively." "There was a criminal component to this, that’s why we investigated as a criminal offense,” he added


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The district attorney's office and the police department have been in touch but the chief cautioned that more details might be required before the case is presented to the grand jury. “We worked on this for several days to get to this point where we could submit a warrant to a judge for signature, and that’s where we are right now,” McManus added. The shooting was "not justified," said McManus. In a prior statement, he warned that if the 17-year-old died, the aggravated assault charges could have been upgraded to murder. “The video was horrific,” the police chief previously told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “There is no question in anybody’s mind looking at that video that the shooting is not justified.”

Based on the placement of the bullet holes, McManus claimed he noticed a problem as soon as he arrived at the shooting scene. “We have a policy that prohibits officers from shooting at vehicles, moving vehicles, except if their life is in immediate – their life or someone else’s life – is in immediate danger,” he said. “When I saw it, the location of the bullet holes, I had an issue with it right away. 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,” McManus said.


The charges come one week after Brennand, a probationary cop with seven months' worth of experience, shot Cantu as the teen was eating fast food in his car. Brennand, who was handling a separate disturbance incident at the McDonald's, allegedly spotted a vehicle that he thought had eluded police the day before and asked for assistance. The officer was seen walking up to the driver's side of the car, opening the door and ordering the driver out before backup officers arrive in the body camera footage that the police made public. The teenager who was eating in the driver's seat and was clearly shocked put the car in reverse and began backing up. The video shows that the policeman then shot the vehicle five times. The officer continued to fire five more times as the car moved forward, as seen on body camera footage.

According to his family, Cantu was shot numerous times, is in critical condition and is receiving life support whereas the car's passenger was left unharmed. McManus emphasized that what happened violates the department's regulations when questioned about the officers' training. “This was a failure for one individual police officer had nothing to do with our policies. Policies did not allow that or training did not teach that. So this was a fail for one particular police officer,” the chief said. According to earlier reports from the police, Brennand was let go for disobeying the agency's policies, techniques and training.  “It took us a couple of days to terminate Brennand, but he was gone pretty quickly,” McManus told CNN. SAPD’s deadly force policy is explicit: “An officer in the path of an approaching vehicle shall attempt to move to a position of safety rather than discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any of the occupants of the vehicle.” According to the guideline, “officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.”

Cantu was first charged with assaulting the police officer and escaping arrest in a vehicle while he was hospitalized. The officer had allegedly been hit by the car's door as the kid backed up. Brian Powers, his defense attorney, claimed the Bexar County District Attorney's Office informed him that no further charges will be filed. In order to confirm that both charges have been dropped and the matter has been resolved, a representative for the district attorney's office pointed CNN to the county's online court record system. “While Sunday’s shooting of an unarmed teenager by a then-San Antonio Police officer remains under investigation, the facts and evidence we have received so far led us to reject the charges against Erik Cantu for further investigation,” District Attorney Joe Gonzales’ office said in a statement last week. “Once SAPD completes its investigation into the actions of former Officer James Brennand and submits the case to our office, our Civil Rights Division will fully review the filing. As we do with all officer-involved shootings that result in death or serious injury, we will submit the case to a Grand Jury for their consideration. Until that happens, we can make no further comment on this matter.”