Former San Antonio officer charged with shooting 17-year-old in McDonald’s parking lot released



CNN

The former San Antonio police officer charged and arrested Tuesday in the shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old in a McDonald’s parking lot was released early Wednesday on bond, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.

James Brennand pleaded guilty Tuesday night to two charges of aggravated assault by a public servant. He was released at 4:03 a.m. CT after posting $100,000 bail on each count, the sheriff’s office said.

The Oct. 2 shooting that left teenager Erik Cantu in critical condition was a “failure for a single police officer,” San Antonio’s police chief said Tuesday. He has since been fired.

The incident began when Brennand, a probation officer with seven months’ experience, responded to an unrelated disturbance call at the restaurant and saw a car he believed had eluded police the day before.

Body camera footage released by police shows the officer walked up to the driver’s side of the car, opened the door and ordered the driver out. The visibly startled teenager, who was holding a yellow McDonald’s wrapper, put the car in reverse and began backing up.

The officer then opened fire five times at the car, according to the video. As the driver moved the vehicle to move forward, body camera video showed the officer open fire five more times as the car sped away.

The teenager, identified as Cantu, was shot multiple times and is in critical condition. He remains on life support and is unresponsive, but his oxygen levels are showing improvement, his family said Wednesday.

“We are patient and optimistic that better health will come. Please continue to keep Erik in your thoughts and prayers,” the family’s statement read.

Brennand did not respond to requests for comment from CNN before his arrest. CNN reached out to a law enforcement advocacy group that represented Brennand in the initial case, and it declined to comment.

Erik Cantu, 17, is on life support and unresponsive, his family said.

Chief William McManus said Brennand was charged with one count of aggravated assault for each person in the car — the teenager in the driver’s seat and a passenger.

The firing was “unwarranted, both administratively and criminally,” and went against department policies, McManus said.

“This was a failure of a single police officer. It had nothing to do with our policy. Policies didn’t allow it, our training didn’t teach that. So this was a failure of a particular police officer,” the chief said.

Police have been in contact with the district attorney’s office, which may need more information before taking the case to the grand jury, the chief noted.

“We worked on this for several days to get to this point where we could submit a court order to a judge for signature, and that’s where we are right now,” McManus said.

Speaking to CNN’s Brianna Keilar earlier Tuesday, McManus said he arrived at the scene of the shooting and recognized a problem 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 to the officer, so it was right clear to me at the time that we were going to have a problem,” McManus said.

The body camera footage also showed the officers’ actions were inconsistent with training, according to the chief.

“The video was horrible,” McManus said. “There is no doubt that anyone looking at that video that the shooting is not justified.”

McManus said department policy prohibits officers from shooting at moving vehicles unless their life or the life of someone else is in immediate danger.

The teenager, Cantu, was initially charged with evading arrest in a vehicle and assaulting the officer after Brennand claimed he was hit by the door of the car when the teenager backed up. But Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales later said in a statement that “the facts and evidence we have received thus far led us to dismiss the charges against Erik Cantu pending further investigation.”

After the shooting, the teenager was found a quarter of an hour away with several gunshot wounds, while a passenger in the car was unharmed, the police said.

The chief has said that the charges of aggravated assault could lead to homicide if the 17-year-old does not survive.

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