New York Daily News

October 15, 2008 


Sister of Daniel Enchautegui weeps as suspect's lawyer blames the officer for his own death

By MELISSA GRACE
Daily News Staff Writer

    Yolanda Rosa, sister of slain police officer Daniel Enchautegui, at the Bronx courthouse today for the opening of Steven Armento's trial.
 
Delmundo for News
 

Yolanda Rosa, sister of slain police officer Daniel Enchautegui, at the Bronx courthouse today for the opening of Steven Armento's trial.

  Armento, along with 'Sopranos' actor Lillo Brancato, has been charged with Enchautegui's death.
 

Armento, along with 'Sopranos' actor Lillo Brancato, has been charged with Enchautegui's death.

The lawyer for accused cop-killer Steven Armento brought the sister of slain Officer Daniel Enchautegui to tears Wednesday when he blamed the Bronx hero for his own murder.

"His reactions caused his death," lawyer William Flack said in opening statements that outraged Enchautegui's fellow police officers on a day of high drama.

Three dozen cops were on hand in a show of solidarity, lining the halls of Bronx Supreme Court and applauding Enchautegui's sister, Yolanda Rosa, and her family, as they entered.

Rosa sobbed as Flack said her brother failed to identify himself when he tried to stop Armento and "Sopranos" actor Lillo Brancato from robbing his neighbor's Pelham Bay home in December 2005.

Nonsense, said Assistant District Attorney Terry Gottlieb.

Enchautegui defended himself - firing only after Armento shot at him - and Armento and Brancato knew the 28-year-old was a cop, Gottlieb said.

"Don't move, don't move," the officer shouted, she told the jury of 10 women and two men in Bronx Supreme Court. "They moved."

Police union officials were furious at Flack's blame-the-victim assertion.

"That is outrageous," said Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch outside the court. He called Enchautegui's response "by the book."

Back in court, Gottlieb described how Enchautegui, who worked a 4 p.m. to midnight shift, was startled awake at 5a.m. by breaking glass.

KEY MOMENTS

bulletRaw Emotion: Before the trial had even started, three dozen cops stood at attention and applauded slain Bronx Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui's sister as she walked, weeping, into the courtroom. The prosecutor hugged her.

bulletOutrage: Defense lawyer William Flack blamed Enchautegui for getting himself shot by confronting the accused triggerman, Steven Armento, and Lillo Brancato. "His reactions caused his death," said Flack.

bulletHeroics described: Recounting the story of how Enchautegui was killed, Prosecutor Terry Gottlieb revealed: "He got down in a military stance and he shot his gun. ... He shot Steven Armento, he shot Lillo Brancato. They went to the hospital; Daniel Enchautegui went to the morgue."

   

A haunting recording of Enchautegui's 911 call was played.

"I think somebody broke into my neighbor's home," he calmly tells the operator. "There's glass, and the window's on the floor."

Armento, 51, and Brancato, 32, are charged with murder and burglary in the death of Enchautegui. Armento was the alleged triggerman. Brancato will be tried separately.

Armento fired twice at Enchautegui, hitting him once in the heart, Gottlieb said, but the mortally wounded officer managed to steady himself and return fire, striking Armento six times and Brancato twice, Gottlieb said.

"They went to the hospital. Daniel Enchautegui went to the morgue," Gottlieb told the jury.

Gottlieb said that when cops found Enchautegui's body, he was wearing a police shield.

Calling the shooting a "horrible tragedy," Flack countered that cops discovered "a shield under [Enchautegui's] jacket."

He also insisted Enchautegui must have fired first, questioning how he could have fired back after he was hit in the heart.

The defense lawyer denied his client was burglarizing a home - saying he and Brancato were looking to score drugs from a man who had lived there but, unbeknown to the pair, had died several months earlier.

And he outraged Enchautegui's fellow officers again when he said that an officer who is set to testify will "put their hand on the Bible and will lie to you."

The cop he meant, according to sources, is Detective Adriana Delgado. She will testify that Armento implicated himself from his hospital bed after the killing.

Among the first witnesses Wednesday was Rosa, the officer's sister, who emotionally testified that her brother put himself through John Jay College of Criminal Justice by working construction and other odd jobs.

Enchautegui, a cop for three years, adored his job and his family, she said. "He gave me a courtesy shield that says 'officer's sister,'" the mother of five testified.

mgrace@nydailynews.com