Trial Under Way For Suspects Charged In Death Of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The trial of two men charged with the murder of a New York City police officer began Thursday in Brooklyn.
The fallen officer’s daughter, Caitlyn Figoski, left the courtroom briefly after feeling ill.
“When you have to sit in this courtroom and hear so graphically what happened that night and be placed in that dingy basement where that life was taken, you can imagine the emotion that swells up, how terrible it must feel,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.
Pride, 28, along with Michael Velez, 22, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in connection with Figoski’s death.
Prosecutors said Pride ambushed Figoski and shot him point-blank in the head on Dec. 12, 2011, while the officer and his partner were responding to a burglary call in Brooklyn.
According to the court papers, Pride told officers that the gun went off accidentally and he wasn’t intending to fire.
Pride said that after firing his weapon, he maneuvered around Figoski and ran away, the court documents said. In a statement to police, he said he was sorry.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t want to kill a cop. It went wrong and I’m sorry. I can’t take it back,” he said.
But PBA president Lynch said the shooting was “no accident.”
“Each one of these mopes that participated in the death of this hero police officer and father should be behind bars for the rest of their lives,” Lynch said. “This was no mistake, it was premeditated, it was planned — they went out, they’re criminals and they killed a cop.”
The prosecutor, Ken Taub, agreed, stating: “Despite his pleadings of this being an accident, this was no accident. He intended to kill Peter Figoski because that was the only way he was going to make his escape.”
But that’s now how the defense sees things.
“If we could we’d scream from a mountaintop that Mr. Pride did not intentionally kill a police officer. He did not intentionally cause the death of Peter Figoski,” attorney Christopher Wright said.
Underneath a vehicle near the scene, investigators said they found a jammed Ruger pistol and a black ski mask. They believe Pride stashed them there after the shooting.
Police said Velez drove to the apartment and waited outside during the robbery.
Velez is seen on surveillance video calmly walking away from the shooting scene. His lawyer, Damien Brown, said Velez had no part in the robbery plan that ended with deadly violence.
“Absolutely, he knew nothing about any robbery or anything like that,” Brown said.
A third suspect, identified as Ariel Tejada, is expected to testify against the defendants in exchange for reduced jail time. Two other suspects in the case have pleaded not guilty. They have yet to stand trial.
Pride and Velez will have separate juries, but testimony for both will be heard simultaneously.
The 47-year-old Figoski spent 22 years on the police force and could have retired with a full pension, but decided to keep working. He was posthumously promoted to detective and awarded the NYPD’s medal of honor.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …