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Family of Texas teen shot by police in McDonald’s parking lot speaks out

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(SAN ANTONIO) — A Texas teenager remains on life support more than three weeks after he was shot by a now-former police officer who confronted the unarmed teen while he was eating a hamburger in his car, his family said Tuesday in an exclusive sit-down interview with ABC News’ John Quiñones.

Erik Cantu, 17, was shot at least four times during the encounter in a San Antonio McDonald’s parking lot on Oct. 2, his family said.

His mother, Victoria Casarez, said her son was shot in his diaphragm, lungs, liver and bicep — and that one of the bullets remains lodged near his heart.

Cantu’s family shared exclusively in an interview on “Good Morning America” that their son is doing his best to survive and is showing progression but “talks with his hands.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable saying he’s getting better until I see him walking out of there,” Cantu Sr. said.

Cantu’s father said his son was not trying to hurt anyone when officer James Brennand approached him; he said he was just trying to get away from the situation at hand.

“I know my son’s faces. He was scared, he was surprised and he reacted,” Cantu Sr. said.

Both Cantu Sr. and Casarez believe their son was racially profiled by Brennnand.

“I think he had that in his mind frame. I think he already had a preset thought about who that person was and how he was going to take care of that problem,” Cantu Sr. said.

The San Antonio Police Department said on Oct. 5 that it fired Brennand and released body-camera footage that showed him shooting nearly a dozen times at the teen’s car as Cantu drove away. Brennand’s actions violated department tactics, training and procedures, according to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

The rookie officer, who had been on the force for seven months, was subsequently charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant, according to the San Antonio Police Department Homicide Unit. He was booked on Oct. 11 and released from Bexar County Jail the following day after posting a $200,000 bond.

“This man’s out walking around,” Cantu Sr. told ABC News. “Guess where my son’s at? Laying with a tracheotomy in his throat.”

Cantu’s family told ABC News they’d like to see charges against the former San Antonio officer raised to two accounts of attempted murder and they are seeking charges against any other officers who played a role in the “brutality” of their son’s arrest.

A hearing has been set for Nov. 23. ABC News has reached out to his attorney for comment. Neither Brennand nor his attorney, Jay Norton, have released a statement or publicly commented on the case.

The San Antonio Police Department said in a statement to ABC News that they submitted the case to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office and any further release of information will come from the DA. The Texas Attorney General’s office has not immediately responded to a request for comment from ABC News.

The San Antonio Police Officer’s Association said it is not representing Brennand because he had not completed his 1-year probationary period for new officers at the time of the shooting and was therefore not eligible for the benefit.

“We want justice, yes, but we want Erik to live,” Casarez said. “We want Erik to live to tell his story.”

Cantu’s family alongside their attorney Ben Crump held a press conference Tuesday — speaking out for the first time publicly since the shooting.

“He profiled this young Hispanic teenager. He profiled him, there’s no question about it,” Crump said. “If we don’t get justice for Erik Cantu, then it can happen to you.”

Crump said his office has reached out to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to review the case.

“What crime was being committed by two 17-year-old kids parked in a McDonald’s parking lot eating a cheeseburger?” Crump said.

According to police, Brennand was responding to a disturbance call when he noticed a vehicle he thought had fled from him the night before during an attempted stop. The car had no connection to the disturbance call, police said.

The footage shows the officer approaching the car and opening the door, when he sees Cantu eating a hamburger alongside a female passenger and orders him out.

Police said the officer reported the car door hit him as the unarmed teen started to reverse the car.

Body-camera footage shows the officer firing 10 times, including into the car and after Cantu started to drive away, before chasing after it on foot. Police said the passenger in the vehicle was not injured during the incident.

Cantu was initially charged by proxy with evading detention in a vehicle and assault on an officer, though the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney has since dismissed the charges.

ABC News’ Teddy Grant contributed to this report.

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