Peter Figoski, NYPD cop from LI, shot dead

NYPD officers probe the scene where longtime NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, 47, of West Babylon, was fatally shot while responding to a reported robbery in Brooklyn. Videojournalists: Howard Schnapp and Ed Betz (Dec. 12, 2011)

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The suspect arrested in the early Monday slaying of a veteran NYPD officer from West Babylon implicated himself in the shooting at a Brooklyn home where he had gone to buy marijuana, police said.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the gunman, Lamont Pride, 27, of Brooklyn, put himself at the scene where officer Peter Figoski, 47, was gunned down.

Figoski and his partner, Officer Glenn Estrada, also of West Babylon, were serving as backup after responding to a 911 call reporting a robbery in progress at a home on Pine Street in the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn about 2:15 a.m. Police said the first arriving officers entered the basement apartment -- and unwittingly passed the two suspects, who were hiding in the building.

Figoski was shot once in the face and was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he died at 7:17 a.m. Monday, a hospital spokesman said. The bullet entered under his left eye, went through his neck and exited the back of his head, police said.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Estrada, who was wrestling with the second suspect on the street when Figoski was shot, chased down and captured Pride -- a suspect he identified as the gunman.

Police said a silver 9-mm semiautomatic Ruger handgun from Virginia was recovered from under a parked car near where Pride was taken into custody on Chestnut Street near Fulton Street. Police said the gun's original purchase was traced to a pawnshop in Virginia in the 1990s.

The original owner lost it and never reported the weapon stolen, police said.

A ski mask also was recovered near the scene.

"He's made a statement that puts him at the scene of the crime," Browne said of Pride during a news conference Monday.

It was not immediately clear when Pride would be arraigned.

Browne said police are still searching for the second suspect, who was last seen on a video surveillance camera outside a self-service laundry on Fulton.

Browne said he was not sure if Figoski had his gun out at the time of shooting, but said officers typically have their guns drawn in such situations.

Police said Figoski was a highly decorated 22-year veteran and father of four daughters -- Christine, 20, Caitlyn, 18, Caroline, 16, and Corinne, 14.

He is described as having made more than 200 arrests, about half of them felony arrests, and, Kelly said, the officer had been awarded 12 medals -- including eight for "exceptional police duty." He received one exceptional meritorious award from the NYPD as one of the first officers to respond to the "Zodiac" copycat killer Heriberto "Eddie" Seda, who had eight guns when he barricaded himself at his Brooklyn home June 18, 1996, and fired at officers.

One neighbor in Figoski's West Babylon neighborhood described the officer and his family as "salt-of-the-earth-type people."

Figoski and Estrada, a 15-year NYPD veteran, served in the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn. The two had been partners for three years when Figoski switched to the midnight tour.

About 200 police officers, many of them in uniform, gathered around the ambulance bay outside the Jamaica hospital to pay respects to the Figoski family on Monday. Estrada, injured in subduing Pride, also was taken to the Jamaica hospital, where a spokesman said, he was treated and released.

Officer John Giangrasso of the 75th Precinct, who said he has known Figoski for 22 years, said he and his colleagues plan to be in the courtroom when Pride is arraigned Tuesday. "We want to watch the case and follow it through and be there every step of the way for Pete and his family," he said. "Our presence will speak for itself. The courtroom will be full."

Giangrasso said that while funeral arrangement are incomplete, the wake will take place at Boyd/Spencer Funeral Home in Babylon Saturday and Sunday.

He said it's not common for an officer to be on patrol as long as Figoski was. He liked making arrests, Giangrasso said, and said he lasted as long as he did in a busy precinct by keeping his cool.

"He didn't take on stress in a very stressful place," Giangrasso said. "He was a guy nobody had anything bad to say about. He was very quiet. The only thing he spoke about was his family. . . . He was very soft-spoken. He spoke about his daughters. They were his life. Putting his daughters through college, that was his main goal." Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said flags at all city buildings will be flown at half-staff to honor Figoski. Speaking at a news conference at LaGuardia Community College, where he received the news that Figoski had died, Bloomberg said: "Let me just say that earlier this morning [we] had a terrible reminder of the dangers that our men and women in law enforcement face every single day to keep us safe."

At an earlier news conference with Kelly at Jamaica Hospital, Bloomberg said: "I'm the father of two [daughters] myself, and having to tell kids of any age what happened to their father or mother is without a doubt the hardest thing any mayor ever has to do."

Kelly said Pride has five prior arrests, including arrests for drug possession and sale. Browne later said Pride also has an outstanding warrant for an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill in North Carolina.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office said Pride had three arrests, including two this year.

He was arrested Sept. 22, 2002, on three counts of criminal possession of stolen property; fourth-degree grand larceny; petit larceny and unauthorized use of a vehicle, according to the Brooklyn district attorney. He pleaded guilty the following month to a single charge of criminal possession of a stolen property in the third degree, a felony, and got three years probation.

This year, he was arrested Sept. 22 for possession of a weapon, a knife with a blade longer than 4 inches long, and served one day in jail after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, the district attorney's office said.

Then, on Nov. 3, Pride was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, and endangering the welfare of a child because there were two children in the home when he was arrested, the Brooklyn office said. He was released and given a Jan. 4 court date.

In that case, Brooklyn criminal court Judge Evelyn J. Laporte did not have him held despite the North Carolina warrant that showed up when Pride's records were delivered to her. That warrant was "irrelevant," because it was an in-state extradition, which means North Carolina police were not going to go to New York to pick him up, said David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state court system.

"It was so clear, that the police department, which prepared the rap sheet, put 'no hit,' meaning no hits on warrants on the front page. . . . There was no hold issue for the court to consider," Bookstaver said.

According to the NYPD, the North Carolin warrant specified "extradite within the state of North Carolina only." According to an email statement, NYPD police spokesman James Duffy said, "The NYPD contacted North Carolina authorities and suggested that they change the warrant to extradite him since he was in custody on charges of possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell, a felony.

"North Carolina initially said no. At arraignment, Pride was released on his own recognizance. On Nov 8, after apparently reconsidering, NC amended the warrant to allow for extradition from NY. He was in the wind by then. A fugitive task force hunted unsuccessfully for him. Pride then failed to appear for his Nov. 15 hearing in NY, for which another warrant was issued," according to Duffy's statement.

Pride's warrant information in North Carolina could not be immediately obtained Monday night, but he was convicted in 2009 on robbery and four misdemeanors: assault on a female, assault with intent to inflict serious injury, communicating threats and wanton injury of personal property, according to the North Carolina Department of Correction. He served 13 months in prison and was released October 2010, records show.

In the fatal shooting Monday, police said they found a second gun, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, in a microwave oven inside the apartment where the robbery occurred. The suspects stole $770 in cash during the robbery, police said. An inexpensive watch also was taken, police said.

Police said Figoski and Estrada were working backup outside the robbery scene, where two other officers had already entered the property. According to a statement released by Kelly, Figoski was at the bottom of a staircase leading from the street to a basement apartment when one of the two assailants inside the apartment shot him as they fled the scene. Kelly said the two suspects had "tried unsuccessfully" to flee the location through the rear of the long, narrow building, then hid "in a side room" -- a room the first officers walked past before the shooting.

Kelly said Estrada, already struggling with a suspect when he heard the gunshot that mortally wounded Figoski, released the suspect he was wrestling with and tracked down the shooter, capturing him after a chase on foot.

Estrada chased the alleged shooter for four blocks: south on Pine, west on Ridgewood Avenue, south on Euclid Avenue and west on Fulton Street. Estrada arrested Pride at the corner of Fulton and Chestnut.

Kelly praised Estrada's actions, saying the officer "had the presence of mind to focus on the man with the gun, and the courage to chase him down and capture him."

Kelly said, "It appears that one round had been discharged from the weapon." He said in his statement that the shell casing had "stove-piped," or jammed in the chamber, and that 10 live cartridges remained in the handgun's magazine.

"Right now, we're mourning," said Juan Rodriguez, president of 75th Precinct Community Council. "I'm here representing the community. My condolences to the family on behalf of the precinct and the community. . . . I'm very sad. It's personal to me. That's my precinct. It's very sad, very sad, very, very, very sad. . . . I know him, and he's a good officer."

Browne said Figoski's organs have been donated.

In West Babylon, where the Figoski family lives, neighbors expressed shock over the fatal shooting.

"It's terrible," neighbor Helen Krebs, 45, said, adding that the family were "salt-of-the-earth-type people."

"I get goose bumps down my back," she said of the news.

Outside Estrada's West Babylon, his in-laws, Richard and Kathy Waszmer, waited for their grandson to arrive on a school bus Monday. They said they were still awaiting details on the shooting.

"The only thing I'm happy about is the gun jammed," said Richard Waszmer, who said he is a retired Nassau County police officer. He described partners on the job as "like family away from family" and said that although he couldn't speak for his son-in-law, "I know it would devastate me . . . any time a cop gets killed."

Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said: "There have to be guns taken off the streets, period. Something has to be done now. If this killer could have, he would have continued shooting. But it only took one round and it took one great life."

The last NYPD officer killed in the line of duty before Figoski grew up on Long Island. Officer Alain Schaberger, 42, a graduate of East Islip High School, was killed on March 13 when he was pushed over a railing as he attempted to handcuff a suspect in a domestic violence case in Boerum Hill in Brooklyn.

Police said Schaberger, a U.S. Navy veteran who lived in Westchester, fell 9 feet onto a concrete stairway and died at Lutheran Medical Center.

With Ellen Yan, William Murphy, Emily Ngo, Anthony M. DeStefano, Jennifer Barriosand Igor Kossov

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