The man accused of shooting and killing a 22-year NYPD veteran officer in East New York early Monday 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.
Officer Peter Figoski, a 47-year-old father of four daughters, died at the hospital at about 7:15 a.m., hours after he was shot in the face while responding as backup to a burglary call in East New York.
Authorities have arrested Lamont Pride, of Coney Island, for the shooting of the officer. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Pride, 27, 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 "it's unclear why the judge let him go."
The warrant was only for extradition in and around the state of North Carolina. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne 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. Days later, it was upgraded, but by then he was "in the wind," Browne said.
His next court date was Nov. 15, and he did not show up. Another date was set for January.
Greensboro Police confirmed the initial warrant only applied to the surrounding states, but could not speak to the timeline of the warrant or whether there was a delay in filing that warrant.
In the tragic shooting Monday, Figoski and his partner, Glenn Estrada, were responding as backup to a 911 call about a robbery at a basement apartment.
As Figoski and Estrada waited outside, the first two responding officers headed to interview the 25-year-old robbery victim, whom they found lying on the floor with a head injury inflicted by one of the suspects, Kelly said.
Unbenownst to police, the two suspects, having been unable to escape out the back door, crouched in wait in a side room near the apartment unit, Kelly said. Once the first two officers walked by them, the suspects made their way to the front door, the police commissioner said.
Figoski was at the bottom of the stairs leading from the street to the basement apartment door when he was shot at close range by one of the assailants, Kelly said.
"His partner, Glenn Estrada, was already struggling on the street level in front of the house with the second suspect when he heard the shot and observed the gunman run by him," Kelly said. "He released the man he was struggling with and pursued the gunman, capturing him after a pursuit of several blocks."
Estrada was treated at the hospital for a shoulder sprain that he suffered in his confrontations with both suspects.
The second suspect remains at large. He's described as about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and 25 to 30 years old. He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and light pants. Police released this surveillance video of that suspect.
A semi-automatic pistol was recovered under a parked car near the scene. Police say only one shot was fired, but the gun appeared to have jammed with 10 live rounds still in the magazine. A ski mask was also found at the scene.
The tenant told police the two suspects banged on his door and initially said they were police officers. Once inside, they demanded money and jewelry, authorities said. They were both wearing ski masks, the tenant told police.
The suspects then knocked the tenant down and one of the men struck him in the head with a firearm, Kelly said.
The robbery victim, who works at a nearby bodega, said the suspects stole an inexpensive watch and $770 in cash before fleeing, Kelly said. He was treated for head injuries at a nearby hospital.
Figoski has been on the force 22 years, with more than 200 arrests and had 12 medals awarded, including eight for exceptional police duty.
A vigil was planned for him in Brooklyn on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m.