Criminal Justice

Fired San Antonio police officer who shot 17-year-old Erik Cantu out on bail after arrest for aggravated assault

The charges and arrest came within hours of a protest held in front of SAPD headquarters demanding Brennand’s arrest.

Josh Peck / Texas Public Radio
Friends of Erik Cantu gathered on the steps of SAPD headquarters asking for justice for their friend. George Ramos, one of Cantu’s close friends, stands in the center.

Now-fired San Antonio Police Department officer James Brennand has been arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault for shooting 17-year-old Erik Cantu while on duty on October 2. The charges and arrest came within hours of a protest held in front of SAPD headquarters demanding Brennand's arrest.

Protestors, organized by ACT 4 SA and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, stood outside SAPD headquarters and called for Brennand to be charged with attempted murder, often chanting "no justice, no peace, no racist police."

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said charges could be increased to homicide if Cantu, who is currently on life support according to his family, were to die.

Brennand, who reportedly turned himself in to police, is out on bond after posting a $200,000 bail. A pre-hearing is set for November 23, according to Bexar County Jail records.

If convicted, Brennand would face a minimum of five years in prison, and could face a maximum of 99 years in prison.

According to a statement from Cantu’s family on Thursday, released by his lawyer Brian Powers, Cantu is still on life support.

“He is currently fighting a high fever and remains attached to mechanical ventilation,” the statement said.

His parents also thanked supporters of their son in the statement.

“We are grateful for your support, love, and prayers,” the statement said. “Erik feels your presence. Please continue to believe and hope that our boy opens his eyes soon.”

Ananda Tomas, the executive director of ACT 4 SA and one of the protest's organizers, said at the protest before charges were officially brought against Brennand that it was community pressure that pushed McManus to say earlier in the day that charges would likely be brought.

"The only reason that we have seen that response from Chief McManus, that charges should be pressed, is because of all of this right here," Tomas said, referring to the protestors around her.

In a press conference on Tuesday night, McManus said his department brought charges against Brennand because the shooting was “unjustified, both administratively and criminally.”

Tomas also said that getting justice did not end at Brennand's arrest.

"It's not just SAPD pressing charges. It's the DA making sure that that goes to grand jury, and that when it gets indicted that the DA does not drop those charges," Tomas said.

From body cam footage released by SAPD after the shooting, former officer Brennand can be seen approaching Cantu's vehicle in a McDonald's parking lot on Blanco Road as he tells a dispatcher he recognizes the vehicle as one that fled from him the day before during a traffic stop.

Brennand is heard requesting backup before approaching the vehicle, pulling the door open and telling Cantu to get out of the car.

Cantu, eating a burger with a 17-year-old female in the passenger seat, asks why before putting the car into reverse and pulling away with the car door open, which hits the officer. Brennand is pushed back by the door before backing out of its range, pulling out his service weapon and firing on Cantu around five times as the door closes.

Brennand then says "shots fired" to the dispatcher as Cantu puts the car into drive and pulls away from the officer, and proceeds to shoot at the vehicle around five more times as it drives away.

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