Lillo Brancato Jr., an actor in the movie “A Bronx Tale” and on television in the “Sopranos”, is on trial in a Bronx County murder case, charged with the December 10, 2005 fatal shooting of Daniel Enchautegui, an off-duty police officer from the 40th precinct in the Bronx. The facts are that Brancato, along with his friend, Steve Armento, had been out drinking and doing drugs at a strip club when they left the club to obtain more drugs. Brancato suggested that the two go to the home of Brancato’s friend on Arnow Place in the Bronx. When the friend did not answer the door, (Apparently, Mr. Brancato did not know that his friend had died and the apartment was empty), Brancato kicked the window in, and the two men entered the apartment to look for prescription drugs.
Officer Enchautegui, sleeping next door, was awakened by the breaking glass. He confronted Armento and Brancato, and in the ensuing shootout, Armento shot Officer Enchautegui in the chest with a .357 caliber handgun, killing him. Armento was convicted of the first degree murder of Officer Enchautegui, and was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison without parole.
Under New York State law, if another felony is committed during the course of a murder, (in this case, a burglary) then anyone involved in the burglary can be charged with both crimes under the doctrine of felony murder. Therefore, Brancato is being tried for murder even though the evidence is that he did not pull the trigger.
During opening statements in the Brancato trial on November 24, his lawyer revealed his strategy for the defense: that Brancato did not know that Armento had a gun when they went to the friend’s house looking for drugs. When the attorney claimed that Mr. Brancato was also a victim of Armento in addition to Officer Enchautegui, this statement apparently elicited gasps from the officer’s relatives and fellow officers in the courtroom. We will report on this case upon its conclusion.
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