A prosecutor said accused cop-killer Lamont Pride intentionally killed NYPD Det. Peter Figoski of West Babylon in an effort to escape, as the murder trial over the 2011 killing began Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
"He had two choices," prosecutor Ken Taub told jurors as Figoski's four daughters and dozens of uniformed NYPD officers looked on, staring daggers at Pride. "He could submit to the authorities . . . or he can use the 9 millimeter gun he has ready in his hand."
Pride, 28, of North Carolina, is accused of shooting Figoski, 47, as the cop responded to a report of an attempted robbery of a drug dealer in East New York on Dec. 12, 2011. Pride's defense is that Figoski, a 22-year NYPD veteran, was shot by accident as he collided with the fleeing Pride.
Taub told jurors that prosecutors have DNA evidence tying Pride to the murder weapon and video surveillance of him fleeing the scene, and have negotiated a plea deal giving one of Pride's co-defendants, Ariel Tejada, 23, of Queens, a reduced sentence of 18 years in return for his testimony against Pride.
Pride admitted the shooting in statements to police after his capture, but said he didn't intend it. Defense lawyer Chris Wright said it was accident, and told jurors that Tejada -- who faced life in prison for killing a cop -- would say anything to avoid that.
"He tells them the story they want him to tell," the defense lawyer argued.
Taub said Pride decided to kill Figoski because it was the only way he could get away. "He sees his opportunity to escape," the prosecutor said. "He tries to run out. He comes up [the stairs] hoping for freedom, but what he encounters is Peter Figoski."
In an unusual procedure, the cases against Pride and co-defendant Michael Velez, 22, of Queens, the accused getaway driver, are going to be presented at one trial beginning Monday, but considered by two different juries. Some evidence is admissible against one defendant but not the other, so at times only one of the juries will be present.
The jury in the Pride case was told to return on Monday morning for the start of testimony. The jury in the case against Velez will hear opening statements this afternoon, and then will also hear testimony beginning on Monday.
Pride is charged with first-degree murder. Velez is charged with second-degree murder. Tejada pleaded to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery, but the murder count will be dropped and he will be sentenced to 18 years on the robbery alone if he keeps his end of the plea deal, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' office said.
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