(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) — A grand jury has indicted former San Antonio Police officer James Brennand on two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted murder after he allegedly shot at unarmed 17-year-old Erik Cantu in a McDonald’s parking lot.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales announced the indictment at a Thursday press conference.
He said his office’s civil rights division will now proceed with the prosecution in the case, including a possible trial, in order to attempt to convict Brennand.
Police body camera video of the Oct. 22 incident shows Brennand opening Cantu’s car door and demanding he exit the vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot. Cantu, who was eating a burger at the time, proceeded to back up and drive off while Brennand fired his gun several times.
Cantu suffered injuries to his stomach, diaphragm, lungs, liver, bicep, and forearm, spending weeks on life support. He was released from the hospital on Thanksgiving week.
Brennand was fired from the San Antonio Police Department just a few days after the shooting. San Antonio Police Chief William McManus confirmed his actions violated department tactics, training and procedures.
Brennand was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant and one attempted murder count. He could face a life sentence.
Gonzales said his office will seek the “maximum punishment” for Brennand, saying it “appears to be appropriate.”
“Justice means prosecuting the individual for misconduct. Justice means obtaining a conviction. Justice means making sure that man never works as a member of law enforcement, making sure that that man never has a gun and a badge,” Gonzales said. “Justice means seeking appropriate punishment.”
“I hope that by vigorously investigating and prosecuting this case, we can help to decrease the pain in our system, even if we can never bear all the pain and suffering that Eric and his family have experienced,” he added.
Cantu’s attorney Ben Crump said in a statement that the announcement of the indictment was a “relief” for Cantu and his 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.”
Nico LaHood, whose firm LaHood & Norton Law Group represents Brennand, told ABC News the attempted murder by a public servant charge was atypical and rarely used because prosecutors must prove not just use of deadly force but “intent to kill.”
LaHood, a former Criminal District Attorney of Bexar County himself, maintains Brennand’s actions were “legally justified” and that further information revealed during legal proceedings will demonstrate that.
“Until this day, James Brennand has been tried in the court of public opinion, without the benefit of his side of the story being known,” LaHood said. “Already we have seen that the initial reports by rush to judgment attitude, have been contradicted by subsequent reporting that has examined the facts. We anticipate more information will be revealed that will further shed light on this incident.”
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