By Eric Levenson, Josh Campbell and Andy Rose, CNN
The former San Antonio police officer who shot an unarmed 17-year-old eating in his car at a McDonald’s parking lot last week is facing two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant, the police department announced Tuesday.
The officer, identified as James Brennand, turned himself in to San Antonio Police Tuesday night, Police Chief William McManus said at a Tuesday news conference.
Brennand’s arrest comes days after he was fired in connection with the October 2 shooting that left the teenager in critical condition. Brennand did not respond to requests for comment from CNN prior to his arrest. It was not clear Tuesday night whether he had an attorney.
The chief said an aggravated assault charge was filed for each person who was in the car — the driver and a passenger.
The shooting itself “was unjustified, both administratively and criminally,” McManus said. “There was a criminal component to this, that’s why we investigated as a criminal offense.”
The police department has been in contact with the district attorney’s office, which may need more information before it takes the case to the grand jury, the chief noted.
“We worked on this for several days to get to this point where we could submit a warrant to a judge for signature, and that’s where we are right now,” McManus added.
‘The video was horrific’
McManus has said it was clear from the beginning that the shooting was “not justified.” He previously said that the aggravated assault charges could rise to homicide if the 17-year-old does not survive.
“The video was horrific,” the chief previously told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “There is no question in anybody’s mind looking at that video that the shooting is not justified.”
McManus said he recognized an issue immediately upon arriving to the scene of the shooting, based on the location of the bullet holes.
“We have a policy that prohibits officers from shooting at vehicles, moving vehicles, except if their life is in immediate — their life or someone else’s life — is in immediate danger,” he said.
“When I saw it, the location of the bullet holes, I had an issue with it right away. You can tell by looking at the vehicles, which way the vehicle is moving when the shots are fired, and this vehicle, 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,” McManus said.
The announcement of charges come a week after Brennand, a probationary officer with seven months of experience, shot Erik Cantu as the teenager sat in his car eating fast food.
According to police, Brennand was handling an unrelated disturbance call at the McDonald’s when he saw a car he believed had evaded police the previous day and called for backup.
Before backup officers arrived, body camera video released by police shows the officer walk up to the driver’s side of the car, open the door, and order the driver out. The visibly startled teen, who was in the driver’s seat eating, put the car in reverse and started backing up.
The police officer then opened fire five times on the car, according to the video. As the driver shifted the vehicle to move forward, body camera video showed the officer opening fire an additional five times as the car drove away.
Cantu was shot multiple times and is in critical condition and on a life support system, his family said Monday. A passenger in the vehicle was unhurt.
‘A failure for one individual police officer’
When asked about the officers’ training on Tuesday, McManus stressed that what happened goes against the department’s policies.
“This was a was a failure for one individual police officer had nothing to do with our policies. Policies did not allow that or training did not did not teach that. So this was a fail for one particular police officer,” the chief said.
Police said earlier that Brennand was fired for violating the agency’s tactics, training and procedures. “It took us a couple of days to terminate Brennand, but he was gone pretty quickly,” McManus told CNN.
SAPD’s deadly force policy is explicit: “An officer in the path of an approaching vehicle shall attempt to move to a position of safety rather than discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any of the occupants of the vehicle.”
The policy further states that “officers should not shoot at any part of a vehicle in an attempt to disable the vehicle.”
While in the hospital, Cantu was initially charged with evading detention in a vehicle and assaulting the officer, who had claimed he was struck by the door of the car as the teen backed up.
However, his defense attorney Brian Powers said the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office notified him prosecutors would not be moving forward with charges. A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office referred CNN to the county’s online court record system, which indicates both charges have been dismissed and the case closed.
“While Sunday’s shooting of an unarmed teenager by a then-San Antonio Police officer remains under investigation, the facts and evidence we have received so far led us to reject the charges against Erik Cantu for further investigation,” District Attorney Joe Gonzales’ office said in a statement last week.
“Once SAPD completes its investigation into the actions of former Officer James Brennand and submits the case to our office, our Civil Rights Division will fully review the filing. As we do with all officer-involved shootings that result in death or serious injury, we will submit the case to a Grand Jury for their consideration. Until that happens, we can make no further comment on this matter.”
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