NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Just days after jurors found a man guilty of murdering NYPD Officer Peter Figoski in 2011, a stunning verdict was turned in Wednesday for another defendant in the case.
Michael Velez, the accused getaway driver in botched robbery that led to the shooting death of Officer Figoski, was found not guilty of first- and second-degree burglary.
“Obviously, my client and his family are very happy. I think that justice was served today with the verdict, but my client’s heart still goes out to the family of Officer Figoski, as well as the NYPD,” said Damien Brown, defense attorney for Velez.
Following the verdict on Wednesday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly released the following statement: “When juries fail to comprehend the monstrous scale of a police officer’s murder, they fail society itself. God help us if other gunmen and their getaway drivers take comfort in these verdicts because when a police officer is murdered society at-large is struck a mortal blow. It’s shameful that the family of Peter Figoski must be crushed again by another incomprehensible verdict.”
CBS 2 reporter Sean Hennessey said Figoski’s family walked out of the courtroom stunned.
“Speechless – they’re devastated,” said New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch. “That night they got the call, where a police officer and a clergyman shows up at their door and they get the worst news – this news is just as bad. There was zero courage in this verdict. This wasn’t a compromise. This was a give-up.”
Lamont Pride was found guilty of second-degree murder on Monday, but was not charged with the most serious charge, which alleged he intentionally killed Figoski. He was also convicted of aggravated manslaughter and first-degree burglary.
Pride faces 25 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced later this month.
Figoski’s family and fellow officers, who packed the courtroom every day, were shocked, angry and disappointed with the verdict because Pride was found not guilty of aggravated murder.
“To say the least, we’re disappointed and angry,” Lynch said on Monday. “There is a moral pact with police officers that if you kill a New York City police officer, you will put them away forever. Practically speaking, that may well happen. This jury should not have settled for that.”
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