Night before shooting at McDonalds, Erik Cantu evaded same SAPD officer who shot him: records

Cantu’s passenger told police she feared riding with him, didn’t want to get ‘shot at’

The San Antonio Police Department officer who shot Erik Cantu Jr. multiple times in a McDonald’s parking lot had encountered the teenager the night before, according to SAPD records viewed by KSAT Investigates.

Cantu evaded ex-SAPD officer James Brennand on Oct. 1 in the same maroon BMW sedan he was driving the following night when he was shot while trying to flee the officer a second time, the records indicate.

The teenage female passenger, who was with Cantu when he was shot by ex-SAPD officer James Brennand, told investigators after the shooting that she was hesitant to ride with Cantu on Oct. 2 because of his actions the night before, records show.

She told police that during the Oct. 1 incident, Cantu disregarded the “emergency lights and ‘sped off’” after an officer attempted to pull over Cantu while they drove along a North Side highway, not far from the McDonalds.

“Erik may have just not wanted to ‘deal’ with ‘cops,’” she says in the report.

Cantu is still on life support at University Hospital. The last update regarding his health was given during a press conference with his family on Oct. 25.

San Antonio Police Department has not released records of the incident publicly. However, KSAT Investigates was able to view and confirm the records.

City officials on Friday moved to block the release of information related to the shooting, including an incident report for the Oct. 1 evading case.

Oct. 1 encounter and evasion

SAPD in-car camera records, called COBAN, show Brennand encountering a maroon BMW sedan Oct. 1 around 8:45 p.m. in the area of U.S. Hwy. 281 and Bitters Road.

Brennand pulled up behind the vehicle and then activated his emergency lights, at which point the BMW accelerated and moved to the left, in front of another vehicle before driving onto the on-ramp for Highway 281, SAPD records show.

Brennand did not engage in a pursuit, but later documented that the BMW’s license plates came back to another vehicle, sources familiar with the criminal investigation have told KSAT.

SAPD officials have since confirmed that the license plates did not belong to the vehicle Cantu was operating but stated that the vehicle was not stolen.

The female passenger’s “statement corroborates that Erik was the driver and they were in the same BMW the night he eluded Officer Brennand by 281 and Bitters Road,” according to SAPD records.

The teen, who is described in SAPD records as Cantu’s girlfriend, was eventually dropped off at her apartment by Cantu but was “upset” by his actions.

KSAT is not naming her since she has not been criminally charged.

Oct. 2 shooting in McDonald’s parking lot

The following day, Oct. 2, the teen “expressed to Erik that she did not want to get ‘arrested’ or ‘shot at’ because of Erik’s actions,” the report states.

She eventually relented and allowed Cantu to pick her up from a friend’s house. The two teens then went to a McDonald’s on Blanco Road to eat.

Brennand, who was at the restaurant for an unrelated disturbance call, approached Cantu’s vehicle after recognizing it from the night prior. He opened the driver’s side door without announcing himself as an officer.

The female passenger, in her interview with investigators, said Cantu disregarded Brennand’s command to get out of the car and that the vehicle’s door “hit the officer” and the officer “kinda gets dragged behind” as Cantu backed up, SAPD records show.

A short clip of body-worn camera footage released by SAPD days after the shooting shows that Brennand did not announce himself as an officer before opening the door of Cantu’s vehicle.

SAPD officer who shot teen outside McDonald’s restaurant fired following review of incident. WARNING: VIDEO IS DISTURBING

The passenger told police she ducked down as Brennand fired at Cantu’s vehicle.

Brennand’s criminal defense attorney has not responded to repeated inquiries from KSAT about his client’s actions on the night of the shooting.

Brennand, who was a probationary officer with seven months of experience, was fired by SAPD Oct. 4. His termination is not reviewable, since it occurred during his probation period.

Prosecutors on Oct. 7 dismissed the criminal charges against Cantu stemming from the shooting incident, in part, so that his family could be at his side while he recovers in a hospital.

Brennand was arrested Oct. 11 on two felony charges of aggravated assault by a public servant.

He is free on a $200,000 bond and is scheduled to make a court appearance on Nov. 23.

The female passenger, who was 17 at the time of the shooting but has since turned 18, has hired an attorney and could pursue a mental anguish claim against Brennand and SAPD in civil court.

Her attorney did not respond to an email seeking an interview for this story.

More details on what happened after shooting

The female passenger told investigators that after the shooting, Cantu drove on Blanco Road toward Parliament Road before stopping the car and crawling to the sidewalk in front of Las Palapas.

Cantu told the female passenger to call paramedics, but after she was unable to find her cell phone she briefly hid. She quickly came out with her hands up after police arrived at the scene and surrendered to a responding officer, SAPD records show.

Officers then put a tourniquet on Cantu’s arm, according to the records.

During the press conference last week, Cantu’s family described the seriousness of his injuries and said that a bullet remains lodged near his heart.

The family’s civil rights attorney, Ben Crump, repeatedly referred to Cantu’s shooting during the same press conference as a racial profiling incident.

“And why, why you ask? Because he profiled this young, Hispanic teenager,” said Crump, who added that Brennand had referred to Cantu as a Hispanic kid with a bowl-shaped haircut. Crump and his co-counsel Paul Grinke who is also working on the Cantu case have not responded to requests seeking comment.

Cantu’s father said he came to the conclusion that his son was profiled after discussions with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

Organizers of a candlelight vigil for Cantu also stated in a letter to the community that “Brennand racially profiled Erik as a ‘Hispanic kid with a bowl haircut’ in a car that he ‘may or may not have recognized as stolen.’”

Vigil organizers, along with Cantu’s family, are also calling for Brennand to be charged with two counts of attempted murder. No such charge exists in Texas.

Brennand has already been given the highest charge possible for the shooting — aggravated assault by a public servant, which is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 5-99 years in prison. Those charges could be elevated to murder if the teenager succumbs to his injuries.

The vigil will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the McDonald’s located at 11700 Blanco Road, where the shooting occurred.

A spokesperson for the DA’s office declined to comment Monday, stating it is their policy not to publicly comment on the facts of a pending case.

“Chief McManus addressed Brennand’s actions on the night of the shooting. As this case is now in the hands of the District Attorney’s Office, the Department has no additional comment,” a spokesperson for SAPD wrote in a statement to KSAT on Monday.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.