NYPD Officer Peter Figoski's four daughters and rows of uniformed cops glared at his accused killer in a Brooklyn courtroom Thursday as a prosecutor denounced defense efforts to portray the 2011 shooting of the West Babylon native as an accident.
Lamont Pride "intended to kill Pete Figoski because that was the only way he was going to escape," prosecutor Kenneth Taub told jurors during dramatic opening statements in the murder trial of Pride and his alleged getaway driver.
Figoski, 47, was killed while responding to the botched robbery of a drug dealer at 2 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2011, in East New York.
Pride, 28, of North Carolina, part of a five-man crew accused of attempting the heist, shot Figoski as he tried to flee up a narrow stairway blocked by the 22-year NYPD veteran. He claims the gun discharged unintentionally.
As Figoski's family and friends looked on, including the officer's parents and ex-wife, Taub described the grim details of how the officer was shot in the face without drawing his gun when Pride burst out of a dingy basement apartment.
"He had two choices," Taub said of Pride. "He can submit to the authorities, or he can use the 9-millimeter gun he has ready in his hand."
In addition to DNA evidence tying Pride to the murder weapon, Taub said, prosecutors have given one of Pride's fellow robbers, Ariel Tejada, 23, of Queens, a reduced 18-year sentence, with only 15 likely to be served, instead of life in return for testimony against the rest of the alleged robbers.
Defense lawyer Chris Wright told the jury that Pride -- who said he was sorry for what happened while questioned by police -- never wanted to shoot a cop. "His intent was to run away," Wright said.
In an unusual procedure, the cases against Pride and co-defendant Michael "Trouble" Velez, 22, of Queens, the accused getaway driver, are going to be presented at one trial beginning Monday, but considered by two different juries.
In his opening to the Velez jury Thursday afternoon, Taub conceded that Velez didn't shoot Figoski, and initially thought he was just giving a ride to friends from his Ozone Park neighborhood. But Tejada, the prosecutor said, will testify that Velez eventually saw Pride's gun and agreed to serve as a lookout in return for drugs.
Under the law, Taub said, that made Velez guilty of the felony murder of Figoski.
Damien Brown, the lawyer for Velez, said his client knew nothing until he heard a shot ring out.
Brown said Tejada would say anything to save himself, and accused prosecutors of betraying Figoski's fellow cops by offering a deal to one of the central participants in the robbery.
"Fifteen years for the murder of one of their brothers," Brown said. "They made the deal with the devil."
Pride is charged with first-degree murder; Velez faces a second-degree murder charge.
Both juries will return on Monday for the start of testimony, but evidence admissible against only one defendant will not be heard by the other jury.
The two other alleged participants in the robbery, Nelson Morales, 28, and Kevin Santos, 31, both of Queens, are still awaiting a later trial on second-degree felony murder charges.