Lawyer for San Antonio teen Erik Cantu wants Justice Department to investigate police shooting

'No one is safe with him out on the streets,' Erik Cantu's mother, Victoria Casarez, said of the former officer who shot her son.

click to enlarge Civil rights attorney Ben Crump holds a press conference in front of the Bexar County Courthouse. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump holds a press conference in front of the Bexar County Courthouse.
The attorney for the family of Erik Cantu, the San Antonio teen critically wounded earlier this month in a police shooting, said the 17-year-old was racially profiled and that the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division should investigate.

During a Tuesday press conference at the Bexar County Courthouse, high-profile civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said his team will petition the Justice Department to open a probe, adding that he hasn't ruled out filing a civil suit.

Cantu's parents also asked for murder charges to be brought against the now-fired San Antonio police officer who shot their son.

The news conference is the first held by Crump — whose client list also includes the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — since he began representing the Cantu family. It also marked the first time the teen's parents have spoken publicly about the Oct. 2 shooting.

Crump said Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales told Cantu's family that the only reason now-fired SAPD officer James Brennand assumed the teen was a suspect was because he was "a Hispanic kid with a bowl-shaped haircut." The attorney said the alleged profiling violated Cantu's Fourth Amendment rights.

"That's it. That's why we're here," Crump said. "That's why [Brennan] shot 10 times."

When contacted by the Current for comment, Gonzales' office said it doesn't publicly discuss the facts of pending cases.

During the press conference, Cantu's parents — Erik Cantu Sr. and Victoria Casarez — said their only son remains at University Hospital in critical condition. The youth now suffers from pneumonia as a result of his prolonged intubation. 

Erik Cantu Sr. said the 17-year-old goes into cardiac arrest when doctors reduce his pain medication. What's more, the father said his son, though heavily sedated, suffers from hallucinations that prompt him to put his hands in the air and mimic hitting a car's gas pedal.

"These are the things that we have to see daily that no one should have to see and no one should have to feel," Erik Cantu Sr. said.

Body camera footage from the incident, which made national headlines, shows Brennand approach Cantu's car in a McDonald's parking lot while the rookie officer was on another call.

Reportedly believing the vehicle evaded him the night before, the officer flings open the door while the unarmed teen eats a burger behind the wheel. Footage shows the car either roll backward or shift into reverse.

In response, Brennand fired 10 shots at the car, hitting Cantu multiple times, according to reports. Brennand has since been fired from the force and charged with two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant.

Cantu's family said Brennand displayed a lack of remorse in additional body cam footage that hasn't been shared with the public.

As the wounded 17-year-old called for his mother, saying "I've been shot," Brennand replied, "Yes, you have, because I shot you," Erik Cantu Sr. said, describing the footage. He said Brennand's voice showed "no humanity" during the interaction.

click to enlarge Attorney Ben Crump comforts Erik Cantu's mother, Victoria Casarez, during the press conference. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
Attorney Ben Crump comforts Erik Cantu's mother, Victoria Casarez, during the press conference.
Further, Cantu's parents said it wasn't until days after the shooting that SAPD officials stopped telling them that their son's car struck Brennand, an accusation the former officer made that was later thrown into question by body cam footage.

In addition to calling for attempted murder charges to be brought against the former officer, Cantu's parents demanded that his bail be revoked. 

"No one is safe with him out on the streets," Victoria Casarez said.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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