Dozens of NYPD officers packed a Brooklyn courthouse Thursday for opening statements in the trial of accused cop killer Lamont Pride, a career criminal charged with fatally shooting a 47-year-old veteran officer when he responded to a burglary call in East New York in 2011.
Pride has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Officer Peter Figoski. Since his arrest, he has told investigators the shooting was an accident, while the NYPD has said Pride meant to kill Figoski. Prosecutors would have to prove intent to convict Pride of first-degree murder.
Figoski, a 22-year veteran of the NYPD and father of four daughters, confronted Pride outside of a residence in East New York in December 2011. Pride is accused of shooting Figoski in the face; the officer died at the hospital hours later.
The officer's wife and four daughters were at the courthouse Thursday, along with his elderly parents.
In video recordings obtained by NBC New York's I-Team last year, Pride says he fell down while trying to escape and the gun accidentally went off.
"By the time I look up and clutch my hands to run, he's coming. I'm going. So it was like, 'Boom,'" Pride said in a videotaped statement. "I want to come forward, come clean and honest, so that way when the time do come, I can get some type of leniency."
Police have said Pride was part of a group of men who went to the East New York residence to rob a drug dealer. One of the five suspects arrested in connection with the case made a plea deal in exchange for less prison time. He is expected to testify against the others.
Pride faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the top charge against him. He was arrested by Figoski's partner, Glenn Estrada, who had been struggling with another suspect but started running after Pride when he heard the gunshot.
Pride had previous arrests in New York on drug charges. He was also wanted in North Carolina in connection with a shooting at the time of Figoski's death.
The trial of the accused getaway driver, Michael Velez, also starts Thursday. Though he's not accused of pulling the trigger, he's also charged with murdering Figoski because of his alleged connection to the crime. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.