February 12, 2013   

NYPD Officer's Killer Guilty of Second-Degree Murder


A jury convicted Lamont Pride of second-degree murder Monday in the shooting death of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, of West Babylon.

The case had gone to the jury on Wednesday.

Pride, 28, of North Carolina, was found not guilty of the most serious charge -- that he intentionally killed the officer.

Prosecutors said Pride and four others plotted to rob a drug dealer on Dec. 12, 2011, but were interrupted by police.

The verdict was read before a packed Brooklyn courtroom, with most of those in attendance police officers in and out of uniform. Pride, who stood for the verdict, showed no emotion and had no reaction. There was no reaction from the courtroom, which included Figoski's mother, his father and his children.

The family of the slain officer declined to speak to the media.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, met with family members after the verdict and told reporters they were "disappointed."

Later, in a prepared statement, Lynch said: "We are angry that the jury did not find Peter Figoski's killer guilty of the top count of aggravated murder.

"The killer brought a gun to a robbery, racked a round into its chamber to be certain that he could fire it at any point during the crime and he used it to kill a man who was a great cop and great father in order to escape. If that doesn't demonstrate intent, then it hard to imagine what does," the statement said.

Pride, who also was found guilty of burglary and second-degree aggravated manslaughter, could face 25 years to life in prison on the top charge when he is sentenced on Feb. 28.

Figoski, 47, and his partner arrived as backup and went inside a basement apartment where Figoski encountered Pride.

Pride admitted he had a gun but said he didn't mean to shoot anyone. A second jury is still hearing the case of defendant Michael Velez, who is accused of driving the getaway car.

Prosecutors said Pride was so intent on escape after the gunpoint robbery of a Brooklyn drug dealer that he intentionally shot Figoski in the face rather than risk arrest when the men faced each other on a narrow stairway.

"It was a deliberate, intentional shot in order to make his escape," prosecutor Kenneth Taub said as he summed up the case against Pride last week in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

Defense attorney James Koenig had told a jury that his client's actions were "moronic" and "stupid," but he had not intended to shoot Figoski.

Taub told jurors Figoski was responding to a report of a robbery in progress when he confronted Pride coming up the stairs from a basement apartment at 25 Pine St. about 2:20 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2011.

The stairway was narrow. Figoski weighed 250 pounds. Pride weighed 180 pounds at the time of his arrest, yet is so broad-shouldered that court officers have to use two sets of handcuffs when they bring him in and out of court.

The stairway "wasn't wide enough . . . [for Pride] to get around him," Taub said.

Pride could have shot Figoski in the leg or in the chest, where he would be protected from a fatal wound by his bullet-resistant vest, Taub said, but he shot the officer in the face because, "he wanted to be sure of the result."

In his summation, Koenig said Pride's initial statements to detectives showed he did not think anyone had been shot, but conceded that Pride had his finger on the trigger of the 9-mm semiautomatic pistol when he encountered Figoski just after Pride and four others had robbed the drug dealer.

"Like an idiot, who should not have a gun in hand, he has his finger on the trigger," Koenig told the jury. He asked them to acquit Pride of the top charge of murder in the first degree -- which carries a penalty of up to life in prison without parole. He did not ask jurors to acquit Pride on the lower counts, including burglary and robbery.

The trial of a co-defendant Velez, 22, before the same judge, but a separate jury, was to resume after the Pride jury's verdict.

The alleged ringleader of the robbery crew, Nelson Morales, 28, and another man, Kevin Santos, 31, both of Queens, are awaiting trial. A fifth man, Ariel Tejada, 23, of Queens, has pleaded guilty and accepted a reduced sentence in return for testifying against Pride and Velez, and possibly testifying against Morales and Santos.