Former San Antonio officer James Brennand arrested in shooting of teen

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The former Texas police officer who shot and critically injured an unarmed 17-year-old who was eating a hamburger in his car last week has been arrested and faces charges of aggravated assault, the San Antonio Police Department said. 

Officer James Brennand, 25, was fired by the department after shooting Erik Cantu on Oct. 2 in a McDonald’s parking lot. Cantu’s family said Tuesday that the teen is “still unconscious and is on life support.”

Brennand was responding to an unrelated call at the restaurant and saw Cantu sitting in the driver’s seat of his car in the parking lot eating the burger. Brennand reported he believed Cantu’s car had evaded him at an attempted traffic stop and that he suspected the car was stolen.

In body camera footage released by the police department, Brennand can be seen at about 10:45 p.m. opening Cantu’s door and ordering him to step out without knocking on the door or otherwise announcing his presence.

Cantu replied with food in his mouth, “What?” With the door open, Cantu began to back the car up and Brennand fired multiple times into the open car and continued as it drove away. The door struck Brennand as the car backed up, the footage shows.

One passenger in the car was not injured.

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“It was unjustified both administratively and criminally,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the charges. 

Alyssa Campos, a police training commander, previously said Brennand violated department policy after he approached the car. Charges against Cantu for aggravated assault and evading arrest were previously dropped.

McManus said Brennand turned himself in Tuesday evening. He faces two felony charges of aggravated assault by a public official, one for each occupant of the car he fired into, the chief said. 

Asked if officers had considered more serious charges if Cantu dies, McManus said: “If he does not make it then the charges will change.”

McManus also said he and other investigators believe the department’s policies were sound, and that Brennand’s actions were mistakes by an individual officer. 

“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,” McManus said in an interview with CNN earlier Tuesday.

“The video was horrific,” McManus told CNN, referring to body camera footage of the incident. “There is no question in anybody’s mind looking at that video that the shooting is not justified.”

Contributing: Claire Thornton, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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