The parents of a 17-year-old boy who was shot by a San Antonio police officer in the parking lot of McDonald’s said the past three weeks have been a “horrific rollercoaster” as their son continues to fight for his life.
“He’s just mutilated and it hurts us to see our son that way,” Erik Cantu’s mother said at a news conference Tuesday.
His father said the situation is “very touch and go” and that Cantu recently developed pneumonia, which complicated his progress.
It was the first time Cantu’s parents have publicly spoken about the Oct. 2 shooting, when then-officer James Brennand opened fire on the teen. Brennand has since been fired from the force and charged with aggravated assault.
Police body camera footage of the incident showed that Cantu was in a maroon vehicle in the restaurant’s parking lot when Brennand yanked the driver’s door open and ordered Cantu to get out.
Cantu was in the driver’s seat eating a hamburger, and a 17-year-old girl was in the passenger seat.
The teen put the car in reverse with the driver’s door still open and backed up. Capt. Alyssa Campos, the department’s training commander, said in a video statement that the door hit Brennand.
Brennand opened fire five times as the car reversed, the video showed. He fired five more shots as Cantu drove away. The teen was found about a block away suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He has been in the hospital ever since and remains on life support.
“Erik is not our Erik,” his father said, adding that the teen underwent a tracheotomy and is on heavy medication. “As the doctors try to wean him off these things in the last few days, it doesn’t seem to counteract as the way we anticipated. Therefore, those little steps we see daily, we just keep going back.”
Cantu’s parents said they believe he was shot four times. His mother said that all of the bullets have been removed except one that remains lodged near his heart.
“They’re unable to get that out right now. It would do more harm than good,” she told reporters.
Police said that Brennand was called to McDonald’s on Blanco Road for an unrelated disturbance call and approached Cantu’s car because he believed it had evaded him the day before when he tried to conduct a traffic stop. Campos said Brennand thought the car was stolen, a claim the family denies.
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said Brennand racially profiled Cantu and “thought he had the right to just eviscerate the Constitution.” Partner attorney Paul Grinke said they plan on looking into policies and training at the San Antonio Police Department.
At the time of the shooting, Brennand had been on the force for seven months and was still on probation, a standard practice for San Antonio officers who graduated from the police academy less than a year ago. He was fired after the shooting, then arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated assault on Oct. 11. He posted bond and was released.
“These incidents don’t start at the moment the trigger is pulled,” Grinke said. “They start back in the hiring process, in the training process, in the retention process and in the policies and procedures of each police department.”