The career criminal accused of fatally shooting a decorated NYPD officer from Long Island early Monday morning after a botched robbery in Brooklyn "should not have been out on the streets," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday.
Lamont Pride, 27, who is accused of shooting Peter Figoski, a father of four daughters from West Babylon who responded with his partner as backup to a burglary call in East New York, "should have, ideally, been extradited to North Carolina. But that didn't happen," Kelly said during a news conference at police headquarters.
In September, Pride was arrested in Brooklyn and when New York police did a background check, they discovered he was wanted in North Carolina on aggravated assault charges in connection with an August shooting, Kelly said.
"When Pride was arrested initially, he was arrested for a sealed arrest but a record check was done. That was in September and a statement comes up saying that the warrant could only be executed inside the state of North Carolina," he said.
"That's the restriction or prohibition they put on the warrant," Kelly said.
On Nov. 3, Pride was again arrested in Brooklyn on drug charges and the NYPD again checked on the warrant. North Carolina authorities informed the NYPD about the extradition restrictions, Kelly said. Then on Nov. 4, Pride was released without bail, police said.
"On Nov. 7, North Carolina authorities changed the warrant and make it that he can be extradited from anywhere back to North Carolina. On Nov. 8, that's given to our fugitive task force," Kelly said. By then Pride was on the lam.
North Carolina officials said the September warrants were based on the assessment of Pride at the time, as determined by local prosecutors.
"In-state extradition is appropriate and reasonable when officials have no reason to believe that the suspect is a flight risk. This was the case with Pride" at the time, said a statement issued by Greensboro police.
That assessment changed, a Greensboro police spokesman said, after the NYPD contacted Greensboro police, although the spokesman said the contact was made, and the warrant was amended, on Nov. 8.
Tuesday night, Pride was held without bail on charges of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, aggravated murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon following his arraignment in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. It was attended by scores of police officers from Figoski's precinct, the 75th.
Four other men -- Kevin Santos, 30; Ariel Tejada, 22; Nelson Moralez, 27; and Michael Velez, 21, all of Queens -- were arraigned on second-degree murder charges as well as others and were held without bail, police said.
Afterward, Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, described the defendants as "evil miscreants" and "cowards," adding that, "The only solace we take today is that Police Officer Figoski's handcuffs were on the hands of the perps who walked into that building."
Police said the five men met in a Queens apartment at 1 a.m. Monday and hatched a plan to rob a drug dealer who lived in a basement apartment at 25 Pine St. Less than an hour and a half later, Figoski was gunned down when he encountered Pride on the stairs, police said.
"They plan to steal any cash and marijuana that he had on hand," said Kelly, who added that police did not find any marijuana in the basement apartment. Police had said the suspects robbed the tenant of $770 in cash and a watch.
Kelly described the five suspects as "acquaintances" and that Santos is an "affiliate" of a gang, the Latin Kings.
"They may have known each other from previous activities," Kelly said.
Police said four of the men busted down the door of a basement apartment to rob the tenant. When two NYPD officers first responded, they came across the tenant, Moralez and Tejada in the apartment.
"Tejada and Moralez initially posed as good Samaritan neighbors when the first police officers arrived and held them at gunpoint," Kelly said. "The tenant, who had been pistol-whipped and robbed, did not contradict them."
Tejada and Moralez, initially treated as witnesses, remained in police custody throughout the investigation, Kelly said.
Meanwhile, Pride and Santos had hid in a room at the edge of the staircase leading to the street. Once the first two officers walked passed them, Pride and Santos ran for the front door and that's when they encountered Estrada, who struggled with Santos, and Figoski who was shot in face by Pride.
"The officer [Figoski] did not have his weapon out," Kelly said.
With Olivia Winslow, Anthony M. DeStefano, Igor Kossov and John Torenli
Funeral arrangements for Officer Peter Figoski
CALLING HOURS: Saturday and Sunday, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m., at the Claude R. Boyd-Spencer Funeral Home, 448 W. Main St., Babylon.
-- ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO