SAN ANTONIO – Erik Cantu Jr. is home from the hospital seven weeks after being shot by a San Antonio police officer in a McDonald’s parking lot.
The Oct. 2 shooting has garnered attention from national media outlets and led to the firing of San Antonio Police Department officer James Brennand, who shot Cantu Jr.
Brennand is currently charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant, a first-degree felony.
Body-worn camera footage released by SAPD shows Brennand fired multiple rounds into a vehicle where Cantu Jr. and his 17-year-old female friend were eating after the officer said he recognized the vehicle as the same one that “fled from [him] the other day.”
According to SAPD records viewed by KSAT Investigates, Cantu Jr. was confirmed to have evaded Brennand the night before. Cantu Jr. was driving the same maroon BMW sedan during both incidents — when he evaded Brennand Oct. 1 and again when Brennand shot Cantu Jr. after he tried to flee the officer a second time.
“There is no question in anybody’s mind looking at that video that the shooting is not justified,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus has said.
Brennand did not announce himself as an officer before opening the door of Cantu Jr.’s vehicle, body-worn camera footage shows.
Here is a timeline of what we know so far regarding the shooting with dates and approximate times:
Oct. 2, 10:45 p.m. - Probationary officer Brennand, 27, approaches Cantu Jr.’s vehicle in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in the 11700 block of Blanco Road near West Avenue. Brennand, who suspected that the car was stolen and called for cover, opens the car door and orders Cantu to “get out of the car” before attempting to remove the teenager from the car physically. Cantu Jr. puts the vehicle in reverse and the open car door allegedly hits Brennand, who then fires shots into the car with Cantu Jr. and a 17-year-old female passenger still inside. Brennand fires more shots into the back of the vehicle as Cantu Jr. puts the car in drive and pulls out of the parking lot.
Cantu Jr. is taken to University Hospital after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. He is charged by proxy with evading detention in a vehicle and assault on an officer.
Oct. 3 - SAPD command and training staff meet and discuss policies and training within the department, McManus says during a press conference.
Oct. 5 - San Antonio police release graphic body camera footage of the shooting and announce that Brennand, who had been with the department for seven months, has been fired following a review of the shooting.
Oct. 7 - Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales drops charges against Cantu Jr. “I’ve instructed my office to dismiss the cases against this young man... That’s not to say that charges can’t or won’t be brought against that individual, but for now, that is the decision that we are making,” Gonzales said.
Oct. 11, 9:40 a.m. - Cantu Jr.’s family attorney Brian Powers tells KSAT via email that Cantu is unconscious and on life support.
Oct. 11, 7:45 a.m. - In an interview with CNN, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus calls video of Brennand shooting Cantu “horrific.” McManus said, “When I arrived on the scene I looked at the vehicle and I immediately had issues with it based on where the bullet holes were... it was very telling to me that this vehicle was moving away from the officer and moving parallel with the officer. So it was pretty clear to me at that point that we were going to have an issue.”
Oct. 11, 8 p.m. - McManus announces that Brennand is charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant, a first-degree felony, and states that the fired officer has already turned himself in.
Oct. 12, 4 a.m. - Brennand is released from jail on a $200,000 bond.
Oct. 13, 9 a.m. - SAPD officials confirm Cantu Jr. was not driving a stolen vehicle.
Oct. 13, 10 a.m. - Powers provides KSAT with an update on Cantu Jr.’s condition, saying in part, “Erik is still on life support for his lungs. He is currently fighting a high fever and remains attached to mechanical ventilation.”
Oct. 13, 2 p.m. - SAPD confirms the license plates did not belong to the vehicle Cantu Jr. was operating. But, officials reconfirm that the vehicle is not stolen.
Oct. 15 - Powers provided an update on Cantu Jr.’s condition via the family. In part, it says, “Day 12′s night was one of the most horrible nights thus far aside from the night he was shot. Daily progress is slow, if any at all, but set backs like this put us in fear of his journey forward.” The full statement can be read here.
Oct. 17 - “Yesterday Erik struggled over 12 hours and it was a super hard day for him. Today is Day 14 of his struggle. It’s been two weeks of pure misery since the day Erik was shot multiple times at close range with a .40 caliber. The bullets brutally tore through his stomach, liver, diaphragm, lungs and arms. Bullets from the two rounds grazed him deeply on other places of his body. His body has suffered so much from the damage and invasive surgeries to keep him alive. We don’t know what the future holds and we ask for continued prayers. Today is a day of rest and we ask you to pray, think of Erik and send positive energy,” Powers told KSAT via the family.
Oct. 19 - Cantu Jr.’s family hires civil rights attorney Ben Crump. “It should go without saying that our children should be able to eat a meal in peace without being gunned down by police, but here we are –– yet again,” Crump said in a statement.
Oct. 22 - Cantu Jr.’s parents release a statement through Crump saying, “Erik still remains on life support for his lungs, but we are seeing improvement. Any small progress seems so big to us. Erik is quite the miracle.”
Oct. 25 - Cantu Jr.’s parents, Eric Cantu Sr., 44 and Victoria Casarez, 40, speak to the public alongside their extended family members and a team of attorneys, which includes high-profile civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
Oct. 28 - City officials move to block the release of information related to the shooting, including an incident report for the Oct. 1 evading case.
Oct. 31 - KSAT Investigates confirms Cantu Jr. evaded Brennand the night before the shooting.
Nov. 1 - Cantu Jr.’s family and members of the community hold a vigil for Cantu in the same McDonald’s parking lot where the shooting took place. Cantu’s family asks for prayers for his recovery.
Nov. 4 - Casarez says Cantu Jr. is no longer on life support. “Erik is no longer on life support; however, he still is receiving high-flow oxygen via tracheostomy. Open decortication, a surgical procedure to peel away the scar peel that formed on the lung so it can re-expand, was performed on Wednesday. Erik tolerated the surgery very well.”
Nov. 11 - Cantu Jr. is awake and smiling nearly six weeks after being shot. His father shares an update to the family’s GoFundMe site that says, “After 6 long weeks and by the grace of God along with all the prayers sent by the masses we are emerging victoriously from this unfortunate event!!! You’re the first to see this smile and I’m one proud father to see this young man fight so hard to be here.”
Nov. 22 - Casarez tells KSAT that Cantu Jr. is heading home from the hospital.
Nov. 23 - “Our family’s prayers have been answered, and we are incredibly grateful that our son Erik is home with us. Erik still has a long road to recovery ahead of him but, we are overjoyed at his progress in the past two weeks,” Erik Cantu Jr.’s parents say in a statement via their attorney Ben Crump. “It means the world to us that we can spend Thanksgiving as a family outside of the hospital walls, where we have lived since Erik was horribly injured. We are thankful for many blessings this week – Erik’s strength, everyone who has supported us through Erik’s hospitalization, and the grace of God. Thank you.”
Nov. 23 - The original date scheduled for Brennand’s hearing. The date is being rescheduled due to the assigned judge being out of court for the week.
You can watch the video released by SAPD of the shooting below. WARNING: Video is graphic and viewer discretion is advised.