Off-duty police officers burst into applause Friday as a jury convicted a Queens man of murder in the death of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, a West Babylon resident who was fatally shot in 2011 by one of a five-man crew that had just robbed a small-time drug dealer in the man's basement apartment in Brooklyn.
Justice Alan Marrus of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn called for quiet and Nelson Morales, 28, of Ozone Park, showed no emotion after the verdict was read. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced June 13 on the most serious charge of second-degree murder.
Family and friends of Morales, sitting apart from the police officers, began to cry as Morales was handcuffed and led away. "No! It's not right! It's my son," one woman said loudly.
Figoski's parents, Mary Anne and Frank, and two of his four daughters were also the courtroom, sitting with the slain officer's colleagues.
Prosecutors said Morales was the ringleader of the robbery crew, who knew about the drug dealer because his uncle owned the Cypress Hills house on Pine Street where the dealer lived. A separate jury in the same courtroom was to begin deliberations next week against the final defendant in the case, Kevin Santos, 32.
A jury in that same courtroom, and before the same judge, convicted the shooter, Lamont Pride, of murder on Feb. 11. Two days later, another jury acquitted the alleged getaway driver.
After Friday's verdict, Figoski's union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, praised the jury for its "courage."
"Morales was the genesis of the burglary that resulted in the loss of a fine man and police officer," the statement from PBA president Patrick Lynch said. "We thank the residents of Brooklyn who sat on the jury, listened attentively and came to a just decision."
A fifth man, Ariel Tejada, 24, of Ozone Park, pleaded guilty to murder before the trials and accepted a sentence of 18 years to life in prison in return for his testimony that all five men went from Ozone Park to a house in Brooklyn on Dec. 12, 2011, to rob the drug dealer.
Pride was fleeing up the basement steps when Figoski arrived, and he shot Figoski, 47, in the face before the officer had a chance to draw his gun.
All five defendants were charged with murder under the legal theory that they were responsible for any death resulting from a felony they committed -- in this case, the robbery.
With John Roca