A young police officer dying from a bullet to his chest somehow managed to steady his gun and shoot two burglars today, one of whom was later identified by police as an actor who once played a misfit mobster on The Sopranos television show.
Daniel Enchautegui, 28, collapsed in the driveway of his Bronx home after the 5.15am (10.15am Irish time) shooting and was pronounced dead a short time later.
The wounded suspects were captured almost immediately by police officers who heard the shots and rushed to the scene.
Investigators identified one of the men as Lillo Brancato Jr, an actor who got his break in the Robert De Niro-directed film A Bronx Tale in 1993, and played doomed mob wannabe Matt Bevilacqua during the 1999-2000 season of The Sopranos.
Brancato, 29, has continued to act in television and movies since, but was arrested in June for alleged heroin possession.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the actor and another man were breaking into a vacant home in the Bronx when Enchautegui, who had just finished a late-night shift, heard the sound of smashing glass next door.
Enchautegui was off duty and in his street clothes, but he alerted his landlord, dialled 911 to report a possible burglary in progress, then grabbed his badge and a gun and went outside to investigate.
His landlord heard Enchautegui shout, “Police! Don’t move!”, followed by a burst of gunfire, Kelly said.
Enchautegui was struck with a bullet from a .357-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver.
The alleged gunman, Steven Armento, was shot four times. Brancato, who police said was unarmed, was shot twice. They were in serious condition at Jacobi Medical Center, the same hospital where the officer died.
Enchautegui, who had been on the force for three years, was the second officer to die in the line of duty this year; the first coming less than two weeks ago.
“This is a loss to the department and the city,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who joined Kelly at the hospital. ”We now have another life to mourn, taken from us for no sensible reason.”
Enchautegui was single, and he was survived by his parents and a sister. Kelly praised the slain officer for his ”incomprehensible courage”.
Police said Armento had a lengthy history of arrests on weapons, drugs and burglary charges, and was running with the murder weapon when an officer spotted him near Enchautegui’s home and ordered him to stop.
There were no immediate plans to arraign the suspects, who were said by Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, to be “in pretty bad shape”.
“One person is in a coma,” Reed said. He would not say which one.