After Officer’s Killing, a Focus on a North Carolina Warrant
The New York Times
By MOSI SECRET
December 13, 2011
Community members, residents and officials joined a candlelight vigil for Officer Peter J. Figoski that was organized by the 75th Precinct community council in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Tuesday.
Photo: Hiroko Masuike / The New York Times
Despite his being wanted for a shooting in North Carolina, the man accused of killing a police officer in Brooklyn on Monday was twice released from jail in New York this fall because the authorities in North Carolina declined to have him extradited, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said on Tuesday.
Officers outside court in Brooklyn on Tuesday before the arraignment of Lamont Pride, who is also accused in a North Carolina shooting. Photo: Michael Kirby Smith for The New York Times
The New York police had arrested the man, Lamont Pride, twice since September, first for possession of a knife and a second time for possession of crack cocaine and for endangering the welfare of a child.
Each time, Mr. Kelly said, the police noticed that Mr. Pride was wanted for the shooting in North Carolina, but that the arrest warrant could be served only in that state. A New York police officer called the authorities in Greensboro, N.C., after the second arrest, in November, Mr. Kelly said, because of “a concern about a violent felon going back on the streets of New York City,” though a spokeswoman for the Greensboro police disputed Mr. Kelly’s chronology.
In any case, by the time the Greensboro police requested extradition, Mr. Pride had already been freed, Mr. Kelly said. “He should not have been out on the streets,” Mr. Kelly said at a news conference. “He should ideally have been extradited to North Carolina. But that did not happen.”
Mr. Pride, 27, was ordered held without bail Tuesday on charges of first- and second-degree murder, aggravated murder of a police officer, and criminal possession of a weapon. “He made a choice to end the officer’s life,” a prosecutor, Kenneth M. Taub, said in a courtroom packed with about 100 standing police officers, officials and relatives of Officer Peter J. Figoski, who was killed on Monday.
The police said that they had also arrested Kevin Santos, 30, who they said was Mr. Pride’s accomplice in the break-in that led to Officer Figoski’s death, and three other men called accomplices: Ariel Tejada, 22, Nelson Moralez, 27, and Michael Velez, 21. All four face charges of second-degree murder, and each also faces weapons charges, with the exception of Mr. Moralez, according to the police.
Mr. Tejada and Mr. Moralez were found near the scene and were initially “treated as witnesses,” but when their stories began to unravel they were placed under arrest, the police said. Mr. Velez, the authorities said, was supposed to act as a getaway driver.
All four were ordered held without bail, and as they were led out of the courtroom to jail, the crowd of officers erupted in cheers.
Police officers responded to a call of a robbery in progress early Monday, and the first officers who arrived at the basement apartment in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, found a tenant bloodied from a beating, the police said. They had no idea that the robbers were still there, hiding in a dark room behind them. When the robbers tried to slip out, they were met by two more police officers. Mr. Pride raised a pistol and fired, striking Officer Figoski, a 22-year veteran, in the face, the police said. Officer Figoski died five hours later, at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.
Mr. Pride, who was quickly arrested by Officer Figoski’s partner, has a lengthy arrest record in North Carolina dating back to 2007, when he was arrested for drug possession, according to the authorities there. In 2009, he served prison time for robbery, and he later served jail sentences for assaulting a woman and for misdemeanor assault. Then, in August of this year, he was involved in the nonfatal shooting of a Greensboro man, the police there said.
Mr. Pride went to New York, his birthplace, and was arrested near Coney Island on Sept. 22, for public possession of a blade longer than four inches, a misdemeanor charge. Mr. Pride pleaded guilty to a violation and was released from jail the next day.
Mr. Kelly said that the police had run a background check and found the North Carolina warrant, but that the warrant could be executed only inside North Carolina.
Mr. Pride was arrested again on Nov. 3, in an apartment near Coney Island where the police executed a search warrant. Two children, 11 and 16, were in the home. Prosecutors later described the condition in the apartment as “deplorable, with cockroaches, filth everywhere.”
The police said they found six bags of crack cocaine on a desk and four bags of marijuana on another defendant; they arrested Mr. Pride and two others. Mr. Pride did not live there, but the arrest happened inside the building where he had been arrested for carrying a knife earlier in the fall.
How a Robbery Led to a Killing
Mr. Kelly said that after the November arrest, the police again checked on the outstanding warrant against Mr. Pride and found that it could be executed only in North Carolina. Mr. Kelly said a police commander called the authorities in North Carolina after the November arrest. “I assume that what he tried to do is have it cleared up over the phone,” Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Kelly speculated that the Greensboro police did not initially pursue extradition because of “resources.” It would have been up to the Greensboro authorities to pay for detectives to travel to New York and to transport Mr. Pride to North Carolina.
Susan Danielsen, a spokeswoman for the Greensboro Police Department, said in a statement Tuesday night that the district attorney there determines the type of warrant to issue. “In-state extradition is appropriate and reasonable when officials have no reason to believe that the suspect is a flight risk,” she said. “This was the case with Pride.” However, Howard Newman of the district attorney’s office in Guilford County, where Greensboro is located, said Tuesday that the police did not request extradition until Nov. 8.
Ms. Danielson disputed Mr. Kelly’s chronology as to when the police commander called the Greensboro police, saying that it was on Nov. 8 — four days after Mr. Pride had been freed. Paul J. Browne, the spokesman for the New York Police Department, said its records showed that “there was a contact made on Nov. 3,” the day before he was released.
According to a transcript of Mr. Pride’s Nov. 4 court hearing, Judge Evelyn Laporte of Brooklyn Criminal Court was told that there was an active warrant for his arrest in connection with a shooting in North Carolina. The prosecutor on the case, Evan Degrees, requested $2,500 bail.
“Anything recovered from Pride, Lamont?” she asked the prosecutor, referring to drugs.
“Nothing,” he responded. “There is no indication anything was recovered from him.”
She decided to release him without bail. He did not show up for his next court appearance, in November.
Mr. Browne, the New York police spokesman, said, “The person responsible for Officer Figoski’s death is the one who pulled the trigger, not the authorities in North Carolina.”
At his news conference, Mr. Kelly did not criticize the Brooklyn judge for the decision, but he did note the prosecutor’s $2,500 bail request, implying that it was relatively low.
Judge Laporte did not respond to a message seeking comment. A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney did not respond to messages Tuesday, but earlier said that $2,500 was relatively high for the charge Mr. Pride was facing.
Al Baker, Liz Robbins and Tim Stelloh contributed reporting.
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