Erik Cantu, Emily Proulx file civil lawsuit against James Brennand, San Antonio over 2022 McDonald’s shooting

Lawsuit seeks money for damages

SAN ANTONIO – Erik Cantu, the teen who was shot by an SAPD officer outside a McDonald’s in 2022, has filed a civil lawsuit against former SAPD officer James Brennand and the City of San Antonio.

Cantu and Emily Proulx, the passenger in Cantu’s car, are being represented by high-profile civil rights attorney Ben Crump, San Antonio attorneys from Hilliard Law Firm, Leslie M. Bearden out of Corpus Christi and Dallas-based McCathern law firm.

On-duty SAPD officer Brennand shot then-17-year-old Cantu in a McDonald’s parking lot in October 2022, after Brennand recognized Cantu’s vehicle from an evading arrest case the previous night. SAPD body-worn camera footage showed Brennand firing multiple rounds into their vehicle as Cantu attempted to back up and drive away.

The lawsuit alleges that Cantu feared for his life when Brennand opened his car door because he thought it was a potential robbery.

Cantu and Proulx are seeking “money for each element of damages that will fairly and reasonably compensate Cantu, Jr. and Proulx for their harms and losses suffered in the past and those which will, in reasonable probability, be suffered in the future as a result of the injuries incurred by Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states that Cantu suffered physical injuries including damage to his stomach, diaphragm, lungs, liver, bicep, and forearm; he spent several weeks on a ventilator and nearly died.

Proulx feared for her life and suffered cuts and bruises during the incident and was subjected to “further humiliating, traumatizing and degrading Proulx when her breast became exposed during the forceful arrest in the company of several male officers,” the lawsuit states.

The incident instilled “extreme trauma” and post-traumatic stress for both Cantu and Proulx, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit quotes SAPD Chief William McManus who publicly commented that the shooting “was not justified.”

“Plaintiffs have serious and legitimate complaints about the City and its policymakers for the policies, procedures, training, culture, and lack of enforcement that directly led to this shooting and Plaintiffs’ injuries,” according to the lawsuit, which also alleged that Cantu was racially profiled.

The lawsuit alleges that SAPD and the City of San Antonio “instituted policies which create and created a climate in which the type of violent, brutal, and abusive behavior exhibited by said individual Defendant Brennand and other police officers by failing to take appropriate disciplinary measures and by ignoring abusive conduct on the part of its police officers prior to the event.”

San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia sent the following statement to KSAT about the allegations in the lawsuit:

“The San Antonio Police Department’s policies concerning the use of force have consistently been found to be well above the legal standard. James Brennand’s actions on that day were clearly inconsistent with SAPD training and policy. The claims asserted are without merit and we will vigorously defend the City in this litigation”.

Brennand is also criminally charged in the case. He’s still awaiting trial on charges of aggravated assault by a public servant and deadly conduct.

Earlier this month, 437th District Court Judge Joel Perez denied the defense’s motion for a change of venue. Brennand’s attorneys argued that it would be impossible to find an impartial jury and argued that remarks made by McManus and Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales about the incident would sway any potential jurors.

Cantu is also facing criminal charges — unrelated to the McDonald’s shooting incident.

In September 2023, Cantu was arrested for evading SAPD bicycle patrol downtown, and in December 2023 he was arrested again for evading arrest from the Universal City Police Department. Cantu also picked up a theft charge in June 2023.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to recuse itself from prosecuting Cantu’s criminal case.

Read more reporting on this case on the KSAT Investigates page.

See the lawsuit below:

About the Authors

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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