New York Daily News

January 24, 2013


 

COLUMN

Dennis HamillFigoski trial: Love for the fallen officer and his family — cells for the fiends


Dozens of NYPD officers and other supporters show up on the first day of trial for the killers of Police Officer Peter Figoski. They offer comfort to his family and help them cope with their loss.


Family, friends and colleagues of slain NYPD Officer Peter Figoski arrived at Brooklyn Supreme Court Thursday morning, Jan. 24, 2013, for the start of the trial of Officer Peter Figoski's alleged killers, Lamont Pride and Michael Velez.
AARON SHOWALTER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Family, friends and colleagues of slain NYPD Officer Peter Figoski arrived at Brooklyn Supreme Court Thursday morning, Jan. 24, 2013, for the start of the trial of Officer Peter Figoski's alleged killers, Lamont Pride and Michael Velez.

The lingering images of the day were one dead cop’s daughter fleeing the courtroom and collapsing after hearing the prosecutor describe how the bullet fired by the defendant killed her father.

The second image was of the father of another cop killed in the line of duty entering the courthouse from a morning as cold as Judgment Day.

This was the opening day of the trial for the murder of Police Officer Pete Figoski.

And the father of NYPD Officer Alain Schaberger — who was shoved off over a stoop railing to his death by a suspect he was handcuffing — was here to show moral support.

      Lamont Pride is the alleged shooter in the line-of-duty death of New York City Police Officer Peter Figoski
 

JOHN ROCA/AP

  Lamont Pride is the alleged shooter in the line-of-duty death of New York City Police Officer Peter Figoski.

“I’m here to support all police officers who risk their lives daily,” said Paul Schaberger, who was less than satisfied with the manslaughter conviction of his son’s killer last May. “But especially to support the family of Pete Figoski. We’ve met the Figoskis on several occasions, at ceremonies for our son Alain who died in the line of duty the same year as Pete Figoski. Our families have spent time speaking, sharing our feelings. It’s a unique pain that only a family that has lost a police officer in the line of duty can feel. Or understand.”

He says you feel a tremendous pride for their courage and yet they ache in an endless loss.

“It’s like trying to explain to someone who doesn’t wear contact lenses what that feels and looks like,” he says. “So I’m here today because I know exactly what the Figoskis are feeling. I feel their unique pain. I want them to know they are not alone.”

They certainly were not. A river as NYPD blue as the Hudson flowed upstream to the second floor courtroom of Judge Alan Marrus, who is not exactly known for a hemorrhaging heart.

And here came PBA President Pat Lynch, face like an arrest warrant, who stops to chat in plain Area Code 718 English.

“I’m hoping for a top charge on all the mopes involved in this case,” he tells me, anger warming his cold face. “I don’t care if they cooperate or plead not guilty. I’m hoping for top charges for all these mutts. Where I come from if you go with a guy with a gun and he kills a New York City cop you are as guilty as the shooter. Whether you’re just a getaway driver or a lookout. Or turning states. We owe it to Pete Figoski’s family that none of these clowns ever walk a free step again.”

He looked around at the uniformed cops gathered in the courthouse.

“Good showing,” Lynch says. “And we’re just getting started. And remember we’re down 7,000 cops. So I’m kinda glad guns have become a big issue since Newtown. But we have to focus on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals like these mopes. To do that we need more cops. That should be an issue in the next mayor’s race.”

Slain cop Peter Figoski and daughters from Corinne Figoski's Facebook page.
Slain cop Peter Figoski and daughters from Corinne Figoski's Facebook page.

He said he thought any new gun legislation should have a rider calling for new federal money for more cops in cities across the nation, like the Safe City, Safe Streets program that made a huge difference in the early 1990s under former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton who always credited former Mayor David Dinkins for the initiative.

“In honor of brave cops like Pete Figoski they should do something like that again,” Lynch says. “We need more cops watching each other’s back.”

Slain officer Peter Figoski's ex-wife Paullette Figoski (l.) helps lead one of his teenage daughters (c.) from a courtroom as she nearly faints during opening arguments for the trial of his alleged killers Thurs., Jan. 24, 2013, at Brooklyn Supreme Court.
AARON SHOWALTER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Slain officer Peter Figoski's ex-wife Paullette Figoski (l.) helps lead one of his teenage daughters (c.) from a courtroom as she nearly faints during opening arguments for the trial of his alleged killers Thurs., Jan. 24, 2013, at Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Which was painfully clear inside the courtroom where top Brooklyn homicide prosecutor Ken Taub laid out a crystal clear chain of events of how a robbery team headed by the defendant went to the basement apartment of a low level marijuana dealer at 25 Pine St. in East New York after 2 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2011.

The upstairs neighbor called cops, leading to Figoski and his partner, Officer Glen Estrada, arriving as a backup team to the first NYPD responders in that sector of the 75th Precinct.

That night the punk with the 9-mm. semi-automatic and a cohort hid in a darkened boiler room of the basement apartment when the first two cops arrived. After those first two cops passed the boiler room, the gunman and one of four partners slipped out and bolted out the front door.

The unarmed one ran into Estrada.

And the gunman ran into a granite block called Pete Figoski, a seasoned 22-year veteran street cop. Figoski tangled with the gunman who was built like a young Mike Tyson — with a loaded gun. Already cocked, a live round in the lethal chamber.

      This photo provided by the New York City Police Department shows a semi-automatic pistol recovered by police after Officer Peter Figoski was shot in the face and killed on Dec. 12, 2011, while responding to a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment.
 

NYPD/AP

  This photo provided by the New York City Police Department shows a semi-automatic pistol recovered by police after Officer Peter Figoski was shot in the face and killed on Dec. 12, 2011, while responding to a report of a break-in at a Brooklyn apartment.

He pulled the trigger.

Taub described in medical detail how the bullet fired at point-blank range killed Figoski. The family recoiled, as if that bullet were passing through them again like a slow motion dum-dum. One of Figoski’s daughters fled the courtroom.

Taub said the shell casing jammed, freezing the gun.

The shooter ran.

Estrada chased him for six blocks, barking locations into his radio. The shooter ditched the gun. And was nabbed by backup cops answering Estrada’s 10-13 call of officer down.

That same pile of human debris sat at the defense table on Thursday morning, chin resting in hand, like someone deciding what to do with his spare time.

For the rest of his miserable life.

“He is the guy who fired the gun,” Taub said, pointing at him. “He is the guy who killed Pete Figoski. He intended to kill Pete Figoski because that was the only way he was going to escape.”

Weld the cell shut.

Slain Officer Peter Figoski's mother, Marry Anne Figoski (c.) gets a hug from NYPD Officer Frank Donalds, a K-9 unit officer who named his dog "Pete" in honor of Officer Figoski outside a courtroom Thurs., Jan. 24, 2013, at Brooklyn Supreme Court during opening arguments for the trial of Officer Figoski's alleged killers, Lamont Pride and Michael Velez.
AARON SHOWALTER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Slain Officer Peter Figoski's mother, Marry Anne Figoski (c.) gets a hug from NYPD Officer Frank Donalds, a K-9 unit officer who named his dog "Pete" in honor of Officer Figoski outside a courtroom Thurs., Jan. 24, 2013, at Brooklyn Supreme Court during opening arguments for the trial of Officer Figoski's alleged killers, Lamont Pride and Michael Velez.

“My wife spoke to Mrs. Figoski this week,” said Paul Schaberger. “We know what it feels like when the story fades. Children are supposed to bury their parents. Not the other way around. But if your kid is a police officer you have to be prepared to bury your child. They named a street for my son, a block-long stretch of Gold St. in the 84th Precinct where he worked — Police Officer Alain Schaberger Way. My wife and I laugh that it might be one of the longest street names in the city. Too bad his life was so short.”

Then at lunchtime Paul Schaberger left the Brooklyn courthouse with the Figoskis into a January wind as cold as Judgment Day.

dhamill@nydailynews.com