A man charged as the getaway driver in a robbery that left a city police detective dead was acquitted of all of the charges against him, the day after an alleged accomplice was convicted of murder. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Brooklyn prosecutors alleged that Michael Velez was part of the gang involved in a robbery that led to the death of New York City Police Department Detective Peter Figoski, so he should be found guilty of murder.
The jury didn't see it that way, acquitting Velez on all charges Wednesday.
The police union is fuming.
"This jury didn't show an ounce of the courage that Peter Figoski did that evening," said Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "This verdict says that they're willing to have a killer live next door to them, because the effects of what happened here today means that this mope, this killer, this cop killer will now walk out these doors."
Detective Figoski was shot and killed responding to the robbery in December of 2011. Prosecutors said Velez drove four men to a dealer's home, knowing they were going to rob him. Velez's lawyer said he didn't.
When the jury found him not guilty of burglary, they couldn't consider the murder charges against him.
"He was very sorry for even being with those gentlemen that night," said Damien Brown, Velez's attorney. "He had no idea what was going on that night."
On Monday, the gunman, Lamont Pride, was convicted of second-degree murder, but not the top charge of aggravated murder. The jury wasn't convinced that he intentionally killed Figoski. Pride said it was accidental.
Pride still faces 25 years to life in prison.
Following Velez's acquittal, Police Commissoner Ray Kelly released a statement.
"When juries fail to comprehend the monstrous scale of a police officer's murder, they fail society itself," the statement read. "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."
Brown said that Velez is sorry for the officer's death.
"His heart goes out the family of Officer Figoski, as well as the NYPD," Brown said. "This was a tragic situation."
In terms of the other men involved, two of them are expected to have their trials start later this year. The fifth person became a witness for the prosecution, testifying against the others. Murder charges were dropped against him, and he faces up to 15 years behind bars for the robbery.