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Parents of Erik Cantu Jr. call for attempted murder charges in first public comments since shooting

Victoria Casarez speaks to the press about her son, Erik Cantu Jr., in front of the Bexar County Courthouse. On her left are members of her family and legal team. On her right is Erik Cantu Sr., Cantu Jr.'s father, and Ben Crump, the high-profile civil rights attorney who is now representing the family. Supporters and more family stand behind them with signs and a picture of Cantu Jr.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
Victoria Casarez (center) speaks about her son, Erik Cantu Jr., standing alongside his father Erik Cantu Sr. (center left) and their attorney Ben Crump (left).

Erik Cantu Sr. and Victoria Casarez, the parents of Erik Cantu Jr., spoke publicly on Tuesday for the first time since their son was shot by former San Antonio Police officer James Brennand. They said Cantu Jr. was still fighting for his life in the hospital. They called for justice for their son.

Cantu's parents stood in front of the Bexar County Courthouse beside their legal team, now led by high-profile civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented the families of George Floyd and Trayvon Martin.

Crump opened the press conference by asking for continued prayers for Cantu.

“This is about vigilance,” Crump said. “This is about every day praying, first and foremost, for Erik’s life. This is what this is about.”

Crump said it was of utmost importance for Cantu and his family to receive justice.

“You cannot justify this unjustifiable, unconstitutional excessive use of force on this young 17-year-old child,” Crump said. “When you think about justice, you look at that video. And as parents, you ask, is this really protecting and serving?”

Cantu's father said his son had recently received a tracheotomy and was battling pneumonia and a fever. He added that he wasn’t responding well to narcotics doctors gave him, including fentanyl.

“Those little steps we see daily, we just end up keep going back,” Cantu said. “Because now we’re fighting a whole different thing of ‘well, we’ve gotta wean him off all these narcotics’ and his body’s not reacting to those narcotics well. He literally shakes, convulses from not having them.”

Family members and supporters of Erik Cantu Jr. wait for his parents and attorneys to arrive in front of the Bexar County Courthouse.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
Members of Erik Cantu Jr.'s family stand in front of supporters, including Ruben Carranco (center), his uncle, and Natalia Farias-Carranco (center right), his aunt.

Casarez said she found out her son had been shot when she got a phone call late at night from the hospital. She described Cantu's gunshot wounds.

“There’s been multiple shots,” Casarez said. “We don’t even know how many. We assume there’s been four, because that’s how many bullets have been recovered, with the exception of one that is still lodged near his heart.”

She struggled to describe his injuries and had to step away from the microphones.

“He’s just mutilated,” Casarez said. “It hurts us to see our son that way. I thought I would be able to speak about his injuries, I thought I could be strong and do this, but I don’t think I can.”

Crump said that Brennand approached Cantu’s vehicle and took the actions he did because he racially profiled him.

“Because he profiled this young Hispanic teenager,” Crump said.

Crump said in a conversation Cantu's father had with District Attorney Joe Gonzales, he found out the officer had approached his son because he was “a Hispanic kid with a bowl haircut.”

Crump said his legal team will contact the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to inquire about potential federal civil rights charges against Brennand.

Crump said the family will pursue civil, criminal, and legislative justice for Cantu. He called for Gonzales to “throw the book” at Brennand and announce new charges in addition to the two counts of aggravated assault he faces. But he didn’t say explicitly what charges he thought were appropriate.

Casarez stepped back up to the microphones to say what she wanted to see. “Two counts of attempted murder,” she said.

They are charges that many of Cantu’s supporters have called for. When William McManus, the chief of police, was asked why his department didn’t charge Brennand with attempted murder during a press conference when the aggravated assault charges were announced, he said detectives didn’t come to that conclusion.

“That’s not the conclusion that we came with right now,” McManus said. “That would be up to the DA [Joe Gonzales] if he decides to change that, but our case led us down the path of aggravated assault by a public official.”

Erik Cantu Sr. speaks to press about his son's condition next to Victoria Casarez, Cantu Jr.'s mother. Supporters for the family and their legal team stand beside them.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
Erik Cantu Sr. (center) speaks about his son's condition.

Casarez also called for potential charges to be brought against the officers who met Brennand on the scene after Cantu had been shot. While body camera footage of the shooting has been made public, no footage has been released to the public from the time when officers reached Cantu and should have given him first aid.

Casarez also said she wanted Brennand behind bars immediately, not out on bail, because he’s a danger to the community. Brennand posted a $200,000 bail shortly after he turned himself in to the police and has a pre-hearing set for Nov. 23.

Crump emphasized how vital he believed it was to get full justice for Cantu.

“If we don’t get justice for Erik Cantu, then it could happen to you,” he said.

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Josh Peck is the Technology & Entrepreneurship Reporter for Texas Public Radio.