NYPD Officer Figoski's shooter convicted of felony murder
An ex-convict was found guilty Monday of second-degree murder in the shooting of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski but was acquitted of the top charge of intentional murder of a police officer.
The jury of 10 women and two men found Lamont Pride, 28, not guilty of aggravated murder but convicted him of felony murder after finding Pride had shot Figoski, a West Babylon resident, while committing the felony of burglary.
The decorated 22-year veteran was shot in the face when he came upon robbers ripping off a drug dealer in the dingy basement of a Brooklyn home 14 months ago.
Pride faces a term of 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 28, but he could have gotten life without parole if convicted of intentionally shooting Figoski, 47.
Before the jury announced its verdict in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, Justice Alan Marrus asked spectators, including members of the Figoski family and a crowd of police officers, to act "with restraint and dignity."
Family members leaned forward in their seats and several police officers bit their lips or clenched their hands, but there was no obvious reaction from spectators, or Pride, who stood impassively as the verdict was read.
Later, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said he had met with the family after the verdict and they were "disappointed beyond belief."
Attorneys for Pride had argued that the gun went off by accident, and defense attorney James Koenig said outside court that the verdict "reflects what we feel are the facts in the case."
Members of the jury could not be reached after the verdict.
Lynch said the verdict sent a negative message to police officers. "To say the least, we're disappointed -- and angry," he said after leaving the courtroom. "There is a moral pact with police officers that if you kill a New York City police officer you will put them away forever."
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly released a statement: "We had hoped that the charge of aggravated murder would have prevailed. Officer Figoski was an exemplary police officer in every way, and his dedication and commitment to this City will never be forgotten.
"I hope the verdict of murder in the second degree, and the fact that the person responsible for his death was convicted of it, provides some measure of comfort to the Figoski family," the statement said.
The family did not comment, and returned to the courtroom as the prosecution wrapped up its case against the alleged getaway driver, Michael Velez, 22, of Ozone Park, before another jury.
Velez, who did not enter the basement, admitted on the witness stand that he had a criminal record, but said he was just giving a ride that night to an acquaintance who wanted to "buy some weed" in Brooklyn.
Prosecutor Kenneth Taub said in his closing argument to the jury that telephone records and other evidence showed Velez knew what he was getting into. "You don't take a witness with you when you commit a crime; you take a partner," Taub told the jury, which will begin deliberations Wednesday following Tuesday's court holiday.
Pride had served a prison term in North Carolina and was wanted on a fugitive warrant for a shooting there when he shot Figoski, who was coming down the stairs to the basement of 25 Pine St. on Dec. 12, 2011, as Pride was coming up.
Prosecutors said Pride was part of a loose crew who robbed drug dealers, often at gunpoint, because the dealers would not go to the police.
The alleged ringleader of the robbery crew, Nelson Morales, 28, and Kevin Santos, 31, both of Queens, are awaiting trial. A fifth crew member, Ariel Tejada, 23, of Queens, pleaded guilty and got a reduced sentence for testimony against Pride and Velez, and possible testimony against Morales and Santos.