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Monday, June 27, 2011

NYPD Officer Benny Lantigua's big mouth leads to gun, DWI raps

Scene where off-duty NYPD Officer Benny Lantigua allegedly pulled gun during altercation

An off-duty NYPD cop was charged with boozed-up driving and pulling a gun on a restaurant worker during a spat over the weekend.

Officer Benny Lantigua, 32, who denies the rap, capped a night of boozing with a meal early Saturday at El Viejo Jobo restaurant in Inwood, said law-enforcement sources and another worker at the restaurant.

The dustup happened as Lantigua, who joined the force in 2005, left the restaurant and hopped into his Mercedes-Benz. It was parked just outside, near the corner of Sherman Ave. and W. 207th St.

"An employee who works here was doing his job. There was some kind of argument," said co-worker Ivan Arias, 21. "[Lantigua] pulled a gun. They called 911. The cops got here so fast."

Lantigua, who is assigned to the 24th Precinct on the upper West Side, pulled the Mercedes near the worker as they argued, court papers charge. He then "pointed a gun" at him and barked a threat in Spanish in which he referred to the worker as "Mexico," the papers charge.

"It isn't true," Lantigua said yesterday when a Daily News reporter asked about the gun charge. He refused to discuss the incident, saying, "I don't want to put it out there."

Lantigua told The News he wasn't drunk, but court papers show cops noticed he was wobbly on his feet and had watery eyes and alcohol on his breath.

Lantigua refused a Breathalyzer test - and was arrested, police said. He was arraigned Saturday on charges of second-degree menacing and driving while intoxicated. A judge released him without bail, prosecutors said.

Police initially charged him with driving without a license, a violation of NYPD protocol. He told The News he forgot to tell his bosses when it expired in May.

Lantigua, who has been suspended from the force pending the outcome of the prosecution, is the 26th NYPD cop to be charged with a crime in the last 12 months, according to NYPD press releases.

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