Two days after a North Carolina man was convicted in the slaying of a New York City police officer from West Babylon, a separate jury acquitted the man accused of driving the getaway car.
Michael Velez was found not guilty on burglary and murder charges Wednesday in the death of 47-year-old NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, who was fatally shot in the face in December 2011 while investigating a burglary in Brooklyn.
In his testimony, Velez told the court that he thought he was just giving the four other suspects a ride.
NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was critical of the verdict.
“When juries fail to comprehend the monstrous scale of a police officer’s murder, they fail society itself,” said Kelly in a statement. “God help us if other gunmen and their getaway drivers take comfort in these verdicts because when a police officer is murdered society at-large is struck a mortal blow. It’s shameful that the family of Peter Figoski must be crushed again by another incomprehensible verdict.”
The New York City Police Benevolent Association was also clearly disappointed.
“This jury did not exhibit an ounce of the courage that Peter Figoski showed time and time again during his life as a police officer,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “This is a devastating verdict for all police officers and for the Figoski family. We are deeply disappointed that the jury completely disregarded the role that the defendant played in the death of a brave police officer.”
“While Peter’s tragic death brought our city together,” he continued, “today, this jury let the entire city down.”
Another jury Monday convicted the gunman, 28-year-old Lamont Pride, for Figoski’s murder. He was found guilty of second-degree murder, burglary and manslaughter. Prosecutors were not able to convince jurors to convict Pride on the top charge of first-degree murder.
Figoski’s partner chased down and arrested Pride after he shot and killed the decorated cop and father of four.
Two other suspects, 28-year-old Nelson Morales and 31-year-old Kevin Santos, have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Meanwhile, a fifth suspect, 23-year-old Ariel Tejada, pleaded guilty and will testify against the two men in exchange for a lighter sentence.