“Sopranos” Actor: “I Was Dope Sick”

Actor charged in the murder of an off-duty officer testifies on his own behalf

A former "Sopranos" actor accused in the shooting death of an off-duty police officer said Monday that he didn't know an alleged accomplice was armed when he came to a Bronx home looking for drugs.

Lillo Brancato said he was suffering from heroin withdrawal when he and Steven Armento went to the home of a Vietnam veteran the actor had obtained drugs from before.

"I was becoming dope sick," Brancato testified. "Mentally, I was a mess."

Brancato, 32, who played a wannabe mobster on the HBO hit, is charged with second-degree murder in the 2005 shooting death of Officer Daniel Enchautegui. Authorities say Armento and Brancato broke into the basement apartment to steal prescription drugs after a night of drinking at a Yonkers strip club. Enchautegui, who lived next door, came out to investigate.

Armento blasted the 28-year-old officer with his .357 Magnum, hitting him in the heart. The dying officer fired back, wounding both men. Armento was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder.

Brancato testified he accidentally broke the kitchen window of the apartment during one visit, and said he and Armento returned to the basement apartment again after visiting a drug dealer.

As he and Armento turned to leave, Brancato said, "I heard someone say, `Don't move.'." ... I turned around quickly and I was shot twice."

Brancato said he ran away, not knowing he'd been shot by a police officer. When uniformed officers stopped him, he lifted up his shirt to show them he was wounded. "Please help me," he said he told them. "I don't want to die."

Brancato began his testimony by describing a history of drug addiction that began while working on the set of the 1993 film "A Bronx Tale." He said he began using marijuana on that film set and later moved on to cocaine and heroin.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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