His name was Daniel Enchautegui (EN-chuh-tay-gee).
If there is one thing you remember from this column, let it be that
his name was Daniel Enchautegui.
Daniel worked for NYPD out of the 40th Precinct in the Bronx. He had
just three years on the job when he was shot to death.
Earlier this month, one of those responsible for his murder, a movie
star, was released from prison.
Let's start from the beginning.
In the early-morning hours of December 10, 2005, Daniel Enchautegui
was home sleeping after finishing up an evening shift when he woke to the sound of breaking glass from
outside his basement apartment. He grabbed his off-duty weapon,
slung a badge around his neck and called 9-1-1 reporting a possible
burglary in progress. The brave officer stepped outside alone to
investigate but waited for backup before proceeding further.
Prior to the uniformed officers' arrival, two suspects emerged. The lone hero identified himself and
ordered the men not to move. One of them raised a .357 caliber
handgun and opened fire.
Daniel was struck in the chest. The wound would be fatal, but he was
able to get at least six shots off. He hit the shooter four times
and the shooter's partner two times. A short time later, Daniel died.
He was just 28.
The shooter, Steven Armento, 48, and his partner Lillo Brancato Jr.,
29, were arrested at the scene.
Separate trials took place, and Armento was sentenced to life in
prison. He was found guilty of murder.
Brancato also went to prison but escaped the murder conviction. He
was freed earlier this month.
Brancato, of course, was an A-list celebrity. He was a star
of both television and cinema. Drugs, alcohol and a myriad of bad
choices sent his career and life tumbling to the point where he
found himself a participant in a burglary where a police officer was
Eight years and twenty-two days later, Lillo Brancato Jr. is a free
Eight years and twenty-two days later, our brother remains in a
Prison for those involved in crimes where cops are slain apparently
comes complete with
We've already met the criminal. Now we meet the narcissist.
Using Twitter and Facebook, Brancato shared his prison
experience posting photos of himself and constantly thanking his
supporters and fans.
His entries read like the personal journal of a down-on-his-luck
lad struggling to return from tragedy or circumstance. Part
motivational speaker, part friend or relative in rehab, his posts
remind you to challenge yourself, to do your best and how fantastic
Lillo Brancato Jr. was at his peak.
He expresses his love for the Yankees, for America, and even shares an
afternoon where he had a chance to play catch with former Giants
Wide Receiver Plaxico Burress who was also in prison at the time.
One post of his reads, "Nobody can go back and start a new
beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Can Daniel? Can Daniel Enchautegui start today and make a new
Lillo Brancato Jr. personifies arrogance.
Had he an inkling of remorse for that horrible night eight years
ago, he would have some appreciation for the massive impact crater
he left behind. He would understand that while Daniel Enchautegui
lost his life that morning, he was not the only victim.
Each time Brancato surfaces, he brings anguish to the relatives,
friends, and colleagues of Daniel Enchautegui. His image, his voice, and his
name are painful reminders of the morning Daniel was stolen from
them by two street fiends.
But Lillo Brancato doesn't care.
Because in the end, it is about him. It is all about him.
Fortunately, this story has not yet ended, nor has the memory of Daniel
Let's make a promise. Let's promise that should Hollywood welcome Brancato back, we
- the cops - will be at every movie premiere, every red carpet gala, and every
promotional appearance to remind everyone of Daniel Enchautegui.
NYPD, just give a shout across the river, and we'll be there to help
remind the movie star - to remind everyone - that fallen officers
are not forgotten.
Nor are those responsible.
Movie stars don't live in basement apartments or work evening
shifts. They don't walk out into darkness to face danger,
and they don't take up arms against evil.
Brave policemen do. Brave policewomen do.
And when one falls, all hurt. And all remember.
The spirit of Daniel Enchautegui shall live in the legions of cops
who call him brother. May God bless all affected by his death.
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