How would you feel if someone tried to kill you? That happened to Rochester Police Officers Dan Brochu and Luca Martini and they faced the shooter in court. Nobody would be surprised if they were angry or bitter, but they're not. They say it takes too much time to hate.
For Dan and Luca life is about choices. They chose a career in law enforcement later than most. Dan served 20 years in the Marine Corps and was a cop in Arizona before he entered the academy in Rochester at age 38.
Luca got the bug from going on ride alongs as a boy with his Uncle Jim Frascati, then a west side RPD cop. Jim is now an Investigator with the Irondequoit Police Department. "I'm telling you, the first time this kid came on a ride along you could tell he was going to be a cop."
Luca looked up to Uncle Jim and the other cops he worked with. "I remember he would tell me, he loved the bonding between officers. He says there's no job like that."
At age 32, after working 15 years as an aerial lift technician, Luca finally entered the academy. He asked for his Uncle's Badge Number 678, and wears it with pride today. Jim says "God it was like yesterday I'm telling you. I had tears in my eyes watching him get that badge."
Because it took them longer to become cops, Brochu and Martini appreciate the job a little more. But Nixon Elian almost took it all away from them in the hallway of a Rochester apartment building. Elian was convicted of shooting the Officers and got 71-and-a-third to life.
In his statement at sentencing, Elian talked about his background. "I know and everyone knows I look like a monster that needs to be locked away for the rest of my life. But the truth is I'm a lost child that's misunderstood. With no guidance or any sense of direction."
Elian told the court how his mother, an immigrant from Haiti, had recently died and he lost his way. "She was the glue that kept everything in my life together and without her everything started falling apart. I want to apologize to the officers, I am sorry for the pain and the suffering I have caused you. But I want you to know I never intended to kill you. I didn't intend to kill nobody."
What did the Officers think of his apology? "I didn't buy it" says Luca.
Dan adds "My reaction to that is he was trying to gain sympathy from people, in my opinion. Because when you look at the way I was brought up, I too was in a single parent home."
That's right. Dan Brochu and Luca Martini didn't grow up in much different circumstances than Nixon Elian. When Dan was a boy his father was institutionalized with mental illness. His mother suffered with different ailments. The family received state assistance and at age 8 he took jobs to help make ends meet. "I just made the right choices" says Dan. "I chose to go serve my country, enjoyed that, completed my career. and then chose to do this job."
Luca's mother and father chose to immigrate to Rochester from Italy when he was seven. His parents came with nothing, hoping to create a better life for their children. "My household, like his household, was not wealthy. It was hard to make ends meet. So when he's sitting there saying it was my mom passing away or I was brought up in a single parent household I don't buy it because yeah, I grew up in a similar household."
Martini and Brochu say Elian's trial is about accountability. Luca says "He blames everyone, I feel he blames everyone but himself."
"I've been holding myself accountable for as long as I can remember" says Dan. When I make a mistake and I'm asked about it I own it."
And despite all they've been through Luca and an say they don't hate Nixon Elian. "No, not at all" says Dan. "I don't hate him because it would infect everybody around me. If I hated him it would be sending the wrong message to the community. And it would be sending the wrong message to my children."
Botton-line: Dan and Luca say it takes too much time to hate. That's wasted energy. They have other priorities. Like their Families, friends and returning to work.
The second young man convicted in the shootings is Marquis Parker. He will be sentenced in march and the District Attorney's Office says he could get up to 75 years. Nixon Elian had a lot to say at his sentencing. Click over to see his entire statement in court in a special Web Extra. Make up your own mind about how sincere he is with his apology.