Five men accused of participating in a botched robbery that led to the shooting death of New York City police officer from Long Island pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and other charges.
Lamont Pride, 27, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Officer Peter Figoski, who was killed Dec. 12 while responding to a report of a break-in. He has been accused of firing the single shot that killed Figoski.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Pride said nothing during a brief appearance in a Brooklyn courtroom packed with officers.
Authorities said Pride and the others hatched a plot the day before to rob a drug dealer’s apartment. Michael Velez, 21, stayed in the getaway car as the four others went in, District Attorney Charles Hynes said. Ariel Tejada, 22, and Nelson Morales, 27, pistol-whipped an apartment tenant and beat him while they ransacked the place, he said.
When the owner upstairs called 911 to report a commotion in the building, Kevin Santos and Pride hid in a boiler room as Tejada and Morales pretended they were concerned neighbors when police arrived, Hynes said.
Figoski and his partner arrived as backup as Santos and Pride tried to flee, Hynes said.
During a struggle between the officer’s partner and Santos, Figoski came face-to-face with Pride, who police said shot him once in the face with a semiautomatic handgun. Figoski died hours later at a hospital. His partner pursued Pride on foot and captured him several blocks away, police said.
Velez, Tejada, Morales and Santos have pleaded not guilty on charges of murder, burglary and robbery.
Velez’s attorney, Marvin Weinroth, said his client did not know about the plans.
“He was giving a ride to a neighbor and after that everything took off and he was put in a very, very precarious position,” he said.
Attorneys for the other four men had no comment.
Hynes, the prosecutor, said there would be no plea deal offered.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who on Monday attended Figoski’s funeral along with thousands of officers from departments around the region, said the killing of an officer is one of the most “heinous” crimes.
“The killing of a police officer is different than other murder because the public vests police officers with the authority to protect them,” Kelly said.
Figoski was posthumously promoted to detective.
Pride has also been accused of elbowing a guard in the face Monday during a scuffle at Rikers Island jail. He is facing a disciplinary hearing, and the city Department of Correction is investigating.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.