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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  The Column  >  A Slain Hero, A Freed Coward

The Column

Police and Law Enforcement News
Sunday, January 26, 2014
 10:45 p.m.



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 murdered.

Eight years and twenty-two days later, Lillo Brancato Jr. is a free man.

Eight years and twenty-two days later, our brother remains in a Bronx cemetery.

Prison for those involved in crimes where cops are slain apparently comes complete with Twitter and Facebook privileges.

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 ending?

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 Enchautegui.

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.

Use the scroll box below to share your thoughts or view those of others.








A Slain Hero and A Freed Coward











Lillo Brancato

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