By Cary Shuman
The Chelsea community came together this week to remember heroic Chelsea Police officer John Bruttaniti, whose quick and decisive action saved the life of a young child who was choking in a June, 2015 incident in the city.
Mr. Bruttaniti died May 12 from injuries sustained in an accident in Lynn. He was 41.
Family and friends joined members of the Chelsea Police and Chelsea Fire Department and officers from other public safety departments for the visitation and funeral Mass at the St. Rose Church on Broadway. Several motorcycle enthusiasts joined in the impressive display of friendship and admiration for Bruttaniti, an avid motorcyclist himself.
The Rev. Hilario Sanez Jr., spiritual leader of Saint Rose Parish, officiated the Mass that highlighted Mr. Bruttaniti’s years of good deeds, his highly decorated service in the United States Army, his career in the Chelsea Fire Department and Chelsea Police Department, and the warmth, love, kindness and generosity that he extended to all who knew him.
Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, who was asked to speak at the Mass by Mr. Bruttaniti’s sister, Karen, and Ernest “Cucho” Acevedo, a lifelong friend of Mr. Bruttaniti, delivered separate, heartfelt and touching eulogies, both of which drew applause from the large assemblage in the church.
“It is with deep sorrow and an extremely heavy heart that I have the opportunity to say a few words about our brother, Chelsea Police officer John Bruttaniti,” began Kyes. “I want to describe to the many of you that are here in this church this morning the great man and extraordinary public servant that John was while he was here with us.”
Kyes spoke about Mr. Bruttaniti’s deployment in Iraq and Kuwait and the numerous medals he received in recognition of his gallant service in the U.S. Army. He talked about Mr. Bruttaniti’s decision in 2008 to leave the Chelsea Fire Department and become an officer in the Chelsea Police Department.
Kyes touched on Mr. Bruttaniti’s work with HarborCov whose leaders said he was “exceptionally helpful to victims and survivors of domestic violence.” Kyes also noted Mr. Bruttaniti’s volunteer work as a mentor in the Chelsea Reach Program.
Kyes described in Mr. Bruttaniti’s own words from the police report what the chief believed was “his finest moment as a Chelsea Police Officer.”
Mr. Bruttaniti and Officer Arsenault were interviewing a possible suspect in an incident in a local store when Mr. Bruttaniti observed a male party holding a small toddler in his arms.
Mr. Bruttaniti realized the magnitude and nature of the emergency and began administering back blows in an attempt to dislodge a foreign object that was obstructing the baby’s airway. Mr. Bruttani’s efforts resulted in the object falling out of the baby’s mouth. He had saved her life.
“I am happy to report that this beautiful girl, whose name is Brianna, is doing great and celebrated her second birthday on January 12 of this year in no small part thanks to the heroic actions of John on June 7 of last year,” Kyes said. “God had a plan that day to place an angel with Brianna and that angel was John.”
Kyes then told Mr. Bruttaniti’s family and friends, “John’s life was one of kindness and generosity and while we offer you our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy, we also thank God for having been touched by his special life.”
Like Kyes, best friend Ernest Acevedo was also brilliant in his message and delivery, perfectly capturing his childhood friendship with Mr. Bruttaniti and the many good times they shared throughout their lives, so close that many thought they were brothers.
“For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Cucho. I am John’s lifelong best friend and brother.”
Acevedo continued, “It is with great sadness that I stand in front of you today to celebrate the life of my friend. He was a great friend, brother, son, officer, fireman, and soldier. You all feel as I do, that he was taken too soon and don’t understand why tragic things like this happen to such good people.”
Acevedo talked about his friend’s remarkable accomplishments and the many laughs he shared with him.
“John acquired lifelong friends at every stage, and if you talk to any of them, they will you the same thing – that he was real. He never pretended to be someone that he wasn’t. He was the life of every party. He always made you laugh.”
Acevedo said their bond grew stronger through each year of their friendship. He recalled the dinners prepared by their respective parents at their homes.
“I would not be the man that I am today without the experiences that John and I had,” said Acevedo. “John had a lifelong dream to be a police officer but the path to that dream was not easy and he took the long way around. But he persevered.”
Acevedo spoke with reverence about his friend’s service in the United States Army. “John never talked about his time in the war but the experience changed him. He talked about the incredible friendship and camaraderie that he experienced in the Army and that was something he sought out upon his return.”
Acevedo said one of the proudest moments of his friend’s life was when he passed the police exam with flying colors.
“He had finally moved from the backseat of the cruiser to the front,” said Acevedo, drawing laughter from friends and family. “And he loved that job. He strived to be the type of cop that we respected as kids, the ones who were fair but firm, giving breaks for a mistake and turning people’s lives around. He was a consummate, professional gentleman.”
Acevedo said there was one common denominator in all he did. “John was the big teddy bear in the family. He always wanted the best and pushed [his younger relatives] to take a better path than he did.
“But he also showed me that family comes in many different places: friends, teammates, brothers in arms. Yesterday’s wake confirmed that family is not how you love, but how you are loved in return. John, you taught me to never give up in my goals. You gave me courage and you gave me confidence. You were the best man at my wedding, godfather to my children, friend, brother, and sometimes even a father figure.”
Mark O’Connor, president of the Chelsea Police Patrolmen’s Union, also praised Bruttaniti whom he first met when Bruttaniti became a Chelsea Police officer nine years ago. He said Bruttaniti was a mensch, a Yiddish term meaning a person of integrity and honor.
“I worked with John on and off over the years and he was absolutely one of my favorites and a lot of people’s favorites here,” said O’Connor. “He was very well liked, full of camaraderie and good cheer. He was a real mensch, that’s the way I would describe him. He was just a good guy in every direction.”