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DA announces attempted murder, aggravated assault indictments for former cop who shot Erik Cantu Jr.

District Attorney Joe Gonzales announcing charges in front of a podium. Daryl Harris, to his left, is the District Attorney's Office Civil Rights Division chief who will lead the prosecution.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
District Attorney Joe Gonzales (Center) announces charges against former SAPD officer James Brennand. Daryl Harris (Left) is the District Attorney's Office Civil Rights Division chief who will lead the prosecution.

James Brennand, the former San Antonio Police officer who shot 17-year-old Erik Cantu Jr., has been indicted on one count of attempted murder and two counts of first-degree aggravated assault.

The charges carry 4 to 20 and 5 to 99 year sentences, respectively.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who announced the indictments after a grand jury earlier on Thursday, said his office’s Civil Rights Division chief Daryl Harris would lead the prosecution.

“Justice means obtaining a conviction. Justice means making sure that man never works as a member of law enforcement. Making sure that man [Brennand] never has a gun and a badge,” Gonzales said. “Justice means seeking appropriate punishment.”

Cantu Jr. recently came home from the hospital where he had been recovering from gunshot wounds for several weeks and had been on life support.

Cantu Jr. was shot on October 2 after Brennand approached his vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot because he recognized the vehicle as one that had fled a traffic stop the day prior. Brennand forced open the car door and demanded Cantu Jr. get out of the vehicle without identifying himself as an officer.

Cantu Jr. then put the vehicle in reverse and attempted to flee, striking Brennand with the car door as he backed away. Brennand then shot five times into the vehicle before firing another five shots as Cantu Jr. drove away. Cantu Jr. suffered injuries to his lungs, chest, stomach and liver.

Brennand was fired by SAPD days after the shooting. The Cantu family had been calling for him to be charged with attempted murder for weeks. Public officials, including SAPD Chief William McManus, had initially resisted those calls.

Harris, the District Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Division chief, said his team had met with the Cantu family and was confident in the evidence investigators had amassed.

“Nobody who does this for a living goes about predicting outcomes,” Harris said. “But I would say this, that over the time I’ve been in this office, if we get to this point, we’re confident and comfortable with our evidence to date and we’re confident in our ability to pursue that evidence to whatever end it takes.”

Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the Cantu family, said in a statement that the indictment is a relief for the family.

“The grand jury’s decision to indict on an attempted murder charge and two counts of aggravated assault is a significant step toward justice — but there is still a long road ahead,” Crump said. “We will continue to fight for accountability and transparency through the legal process.”

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