SAN ANTONIO — A grand jury has formally indicted former police officer James Brennand with attempted murder after he shot at an unarmed teen, Erik Cantu, in a San Antonio parking lot in October.
The announcement was made Thursday afternoon by District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who says his team will seek the maximum punishment for Brennand, which Gonzales said he believed was appropriate in this case. Brennand was also indicted on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant.
Brennand was fired from the San Antonio Police Department within days of the Oct. 2 shooting, with Chief William McManus saying his actions were unjustified.
“When an officer uses unnecessary and unjustified force, the trust between law enforcement and our community is rattled,” Gonzales said Thursday afternoon. “We are going to do everything possible to see that justice is done for Erik and the rest of his family.”
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The case will be handled by the civil rights division of Gonzales’s office, led by Daryl Harris. The unit typically handles cases of officer-involved shootings, custodial deaths and allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement.
Watch the full news conference led by Gonzales below:
KENS 5 asked Harris how confident is he moving forward with the Brennand case.
“We are comfortable with our evidence to date,” he said. “And we are confident to pursue that evidence to whatever end that takes whether it be a resolution of agreement or a trial.”
“Justice means obtaining a conviction,” Gonzales added. “Justice means making sure that man never works as a member of law enforcement, making sure that man never has a gun or a badge.”
Ananda Tomas is with the group Act 4 SA, an activist group which has been demanding justice alongside the Cantu family. Reacting to the indictment of the grand jury, as well as the attempted murder charge, Tomas said she was relieved.
“And happy especially for the family," she said. "I think this is part of the community saying we are tired of not having accountability. And we are tired of police brutality.”
Ben Crump, the attorney retained by Cantu's family, said in a subsequent statement that Thursday's announcement "is a relief to Erik, his family and everyone supporting them through this tragedy."
"The grand jury’s decision to... is a significant step toward justice, but there is still a long road ahead," Crump's statement goes on to read. "We will continue to fight for accountability and transparency through the legal process. Erik and his family are grateful for the outpouring of support they have received, not only in Erik’s fight for survival, but also in our fight for full justice. Today, we are one step closer.”
Police bodycam video previously released by SAPD shows Brennand opening Cantu’s car door and demanding him to exit the parked vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot. Cantu, who’s eating a burger at the time, proceeds to back up and drive off while Brennand fires his gun several times.
McManus made it clear the shooting was a clear violation of policy.
Cantu was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving week, after a seven-week stay.
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