NBC New York
The five suspects connected to the deadly shooting of NYPD officer Peter Figoski were arraigned in downtown Brooklyn, facing the "wall of blue" put up by Figoski's NYPD colleagues. Ida Siegal reports
Police announced four more arrests in connection with a shooting that claimed the life of a 22-year NYPD veteran who responded as backup to a 911 call about a robbery in Brooklyn Monday morning.
The additional arrests Tuesday bring the number of arrests in the deadly shooting to five. Police arrested Lamont Pride, 27, early Monday. He is believed to be the man who shot officer Peter Figoski.
Pride was arraigned late Tuesday on a first-degree murder charge in the officer's killing. He appeared in court shackled and didn't speak. Later, four other men accused of being involved were arraigned on second-degree murder charges in the shooting, which is being described as a drug robbery conspiracy gone bad. All were jailed without bail.
Arguing for no bail, prosecutor Kenneth Taub said the five men had plotted to "commit a home invasion of a small-time marijuana dealer." He referred to Pride as the "muscle of the organization" and said the defendant "made a choice to end the officer's life rather than be arrested."
Another of the defendants, Nelson Morales, was described as the mastermind behind the plot.
None of the defendants or their attorneys spoke in the courtroom, which was packed with colleagues of the slain police officer, or said anything to reporters after the arraignment.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the group of five planned the robbery at the East New York basement apartment that was allegedly the home of a marijuana dealer. They met first at a Queens apartment, he said, and then drove together to Brooklyn to carry out the plan.
"They planned to steal any cash and marijuana he had on hand," Kelly said.
Figoski, a 47-year-old father of four daughters, died at the hospital at about 7:15 a.m. Monday, hours after he was shot in the face while responding as backup to the burglary.
One of the additional suspects arrested is a man who struggled with Figoski's partner, Glenn Estrada, at the shooting scene on Monday. Estrada released the man when he heard a gunshot and pursued the alleged shooter, Pride. He captured Pride after a short chase.
Two other suspects posed as good Samaritans while police investigated the robbery and another is believed to be the getaway driver, Kelly said.
Police believe the suspects drove to the scene in a gold car. When police responded, the suspects got blocked in and abandoned the car on the street, Kelly said. The vehicle is now being processed.
Kelly said police are not looking for additional suspects in the case.
"It's a shockwave throughout the department when something like this happens," Kelly said. "It's a terrible tragedy for the officer's family and for the department as a whole. This is someone who put his life on the line, literally, every day, taken in such a tragic, sudden way."
On Monday, NBC New York first reported that Pride was released by a judge after a drug arrest in Coney Island last month, despite an outstanding warrant in North Carolina for a violent shooting in that state.
Kelly said Pride was wanted for aggravated assault in North Carolina. In that case, Greensboro, N.C. police said he was one of three men involved in a dispute that led to a shooting on Aug. 5.
Pride was arrested several other times, including Nov. 3 in Coney Island for a drug charge in an apartment. A child was also present at the time, and Pride was charged with drug possession and endangering the welfare of child, both misdemeanors.
When police ran his rap sheet that day, the report came back just minutes later that he was wanted for the North Carolina felonies, NBC New York has learned.
But when he was arraigned the next day in Brooklyn criminal court, the judge released him.
According to a transcript from the arraignment, the prosecutor told Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Evelyn Laporte, "Lamont Pride has an outstanding warrant in North Carolina for a shooting."
But without asking any serious follow-up questions about that warrant, LaPorte said, "I'm not going to set bail," and released Pride on his own recognizance.
Standard practice for suspects with outstanding warrants is to hold them without bail until the warrant issue is resolved. In this case, the warrant also indicated he could be "armed with a handgun."
Court spokesman David Bookstaver said "The judges have discretion. This case was a very minor case before the judge."
The warrant was only for extradition in and around the state of North Carolina. Browne, the NYPD spokesman, told NBC New York that the NYPD contacted North Carolina authorities, urging them to upgrade the warrant when Pride was first arrested, but they initially declined.
Greensboro police Tuesday disputed that statement, saying NYPD contacted them five days after Pride was released and that they immediately upgraded the warrant when they were notified.
His next court date was Nov. 15, and he did not show up. Another date was set for January.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said Tuesday he was asking for an investigation into "what this judge knew when she made this tragic and completely unacceptable decision."