December 12, 2011
NYPD officer shot, killed at scene of break-in
Officer Down: Peter Figoski - [New York, New York]
By Colleen Long
NEW YORK — A 22-year veteran police officer responding to a break-in Monday morning was shot in the face and killed by one of the suspects hiding inside the Brooklyn apartment when officers arrived, police officials said.
Officer Peter Figoski, who could have retired two years ago with a full pension, was pronounced dead at 7:17 a.m. at a hospital just hours after the shooting, authorities said.
Lamont Pride, 27, was arrested and faces murder charges. There was no answer to calls at a Greensboro, N.C., address where he said he lived, and no phone listed for a Brooklyn home. It's not clear when he would be arraigned, and there was no information on whether he had an attorney. A second suspect was still being sought.
Figoski had more than 200 arrests in his career and had been awarded 12 medals, including 8 for exceptional police duty.
He was part of a backup team of officers who responded to a report of a break-in at the basement apartment in the East New York section of Brooklyn, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The owner of the two-story, who lives on the first and second floors and rents out the barely-finished basement apartment, called 911 at about 2:15 a.m.
The two suspects had tried to flee through the back of the long, narrow apartment, but they couldn't find a way out and were hiding in a side room full of tools as officers walked past them and started to interview the tenant and a neighbor. They were trying to escape through the front when they ran into Figoski, police said. He was shot once at so close a range his gold collar insignia flew off. A handprint, possibly the suspects, was found in a pool of blood.
Figoski's partner, Glenn Estrada, was struggling with the second suspect in front of the house when he heard the shot and saw the shooter take off, Kelly said. He chased after him for blocks before capturing him, Kelly said. Estrada was treated for a shoulder injury sustained during the struggle.
"I want to commend Officer Estrada, who had the presence of mind to focus on the man with the gun, and the courage to chase him down and capture him," Kelly said.
The two had been partners for three years, since Figoski switched to the midnight shift. Both have spent their entire careers in the 75th Precinct. Estrada is also decorated and has 15 years on the job.
Police found a silver, semi-automatic pistol under a parked car near where Pride was arrested. There was one round discharged from the weapon, and the shell casing had jammed inside the gun. Kelly said the gun had 10 other live grounds.
Police found a second gun stashed inside a filthy microwave at the apartment. They believe the weapon, an unloaded revolver, belongs to the at-large suspect, described as a male, Hispanic, mid-20s, wearing a grey, hooded sweat shirt and light pants. Police later released a photo culled from a nearby laundry security camera that showed the suspect in a grey short-sleeved shirt despite the cold winter weather.
Figoski, 47, of West Babylon, N.Y., was divorced and has four daughters. Carolyn, 16, and Corrine, 14, are in high school, and Christine, 20, and Caitlyn, 18, are in college. His brother Robert Figoski is a retired police officer, and his brother-in-law is currently an officer.
"It is a family that has dedicated its lives to making this city safe and it's just such a tragedy," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
His older girls attend college upstate, and when Kelly got word of the shooting, he contacted State Police Lt. Michael Greco, the liaison to the department, who had them flown by helicopter to Albany, N.Y., and then by state police plane to Kennedy Airport so they could be with their father.
A Suffolk County police cruiser kept guard Monday outside Peter Figoski's dormered, Cape Cod-style home on a quiet street on suburban Long Island; no answer answered the door.
"I got goose bumps all over my body when I heard the news," said Helen Krebs, who lives across the street. She said Figoski's two eldest daughters had babysat for her 5-year-old son, Matthew, and she frequently saw Figoski working on his yard.
"He raised his daughters wonderfully. They were hard-working, conscientious, wonderful, salt-of-the-earth-type people," Krebs said.
"I could rely on him to be very helpful if I needed something," she said. "It was comforting having him as a neighbor across the street."
Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the community and force should keep Figoski's family in their prayers.
"Police Officer Peter Figoski spent his entire career patrolling the streets of East New York and serving its citizens with respect and dignity," he said.
The Brooklyn tenant told police he heard the suspects pounding on the basement door, claiming to be police. They got in and demanded money, pistol-whipped him and took $770 in cash and a watch, police said.
Detectives were investigating whether the tenant was dealing marijuana out of the apartment, and that some of the stolen money was drug money. Police received calls nearby that drugs were being sold, but not at the exact address.
But, according to police, Pride told them he was at the home to buy pot.
"He has made statements implicating himself as the shooter," said NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne.
The tenant, who works at a nearby bodega, told police one person was wearing a ski mask.
A ski mask was recovered on the street corner where Pride was arrested. A neighbor also came to help when he heard the commotion and said he saw the men with guns.
Bloomberg, an outspoken advocate for gun control, said the gun was purchased illegally and reiterated his plea for stricter gun laws around the country. New York has some of the strictest nationwide.
"These guns are bought and used to kill people, and you saw that this morning," Bloomberg said.
It was the second time this year an NYPD officer was killed in the line of duty. Officer Alain Schaberger fell nine feet off a stoop and broke his neck while responding to a domestic violence call in Brooklyn in March. The man accused of pushing him has pleaded not guilty to murder.
The shooting Monday recalled the 2007 death of Officer Russel Timoshenko. He was shot twice in the face during a traffic stop in Brooklyn and later died. His partner, Herman Yan, was saved by his bullet-resistant vest.
Associated Press writers Frank Eltman in West Babylon, N.Y., and Samantha Gross in New York contributed to this report.