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Editorial: Why is Officer Figoski dead?

Lamont Pride, a murder suspect in the fatal

Lamont Pride, a murder suspect in the fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, appears at his arraignment in Brooklyn criminal court with attorney James Koenig. Photo Credit: Pool / Jesse Ward

There's another police officer dead, another man who put himself in harm's way to protect and serve. Officer Peter J. Figoski could have retired a few years ago, but didn't. He could have used seniority to avoid night shifts, but didn't. He was a dedicated officer, and a father who cherished his four daughters above all.

Figoski was shot to death after responding to a robbery in progress early Monday morning in Brooklyn.

So we ask ourselves, as we always do, if the tragedy could have been prevented. And the answer, as it so often seems to be, is probably so. Lamont Pride, the man accused of killing Figoski, is a career criminal and a violent one, wanted for a previous shooting -- but not wanted badly enough.

An outstanding warrant on Pride for allegedly shooting a man in North Carolina authorized his extradition only in that state, so his recent arrests in New York didn't lead to his being held or returned.

Officials in Greensboro, N.C., say they decide how to word these warrants on a case-by-case basis, and Pride's extradition was authorized only in North Carolina because he wasn't considered a flight risk. That explanation doesn't add up. These warrants are sent to police departments across the nation, and the fact that the cops don't think a person is likely to leave the state doesn't justify making it impossible for officers in other states to hold him for them if he does.

Much more believable is the explanation New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly has given for why departments issue these limited extradition orders: They don't want to expend the time and money it takes to go and get these people in a far-off place once they're apprehended. Kelly said such warrants are not unusual, but are normally reserved for nonviolent offenders. When pressed, a Greensboro Police Department spokeswoman conceded to us that, "Limited resources can be a factor in these decisions."

Pride, arrested numerous times while wanted for allegedly shooting a man, released by a New York judge without bail, and never pursued when he missed a court appearance here in November, shouldn't have been free. If this officer is dead only because people made mistakes, that's a tragedy. But if Figoski is dead because a North Carolina police department didn't want to have to spend a few bucks to come get his alleged killer, that's a travesty.