A man accused of gunning down a veteran New York Police Department officer during a botched home invasion and the suspect's four alleged accomplices have been indicted on murder charges, prosecutors said Friday.
The indictment naming Lamont Pride and the other men was announced as they stood side-by-side with grim expressions on their faces at a brief hearing in criminal court in Brooklyn that was packed with police officers. A judge scheduled the defendants, all being held without bail, to return to court next week to enter a plea.
Only one of the defense attorneys spoke about the case, claiming his client, Michael Valez, was duped into doing a jailhouse interview by a newspaper reporter and jail personnel who ignored a directive that Valez should not speak to anyone but his lawyer.
According to a front-page story published in the Daily News on Friday, Valez admitted he drove the robbery crew to the Brooklyn apartment of a drug dealer early Monday so the group could rob him. But he also claimed he felt he "had no choice" because on the way, Pride "pointed a gun at me and said, `Keep going.'"
Valez's attorney, Marvin Weinroth, complained to the judge that the story violated his client's rights and put unnecessary "heat" on an emotionally charged tragedy.
"The heat on this case is already white-hot," Weinroth said.
Prosecutors allege Valez waited outside the basement apartment as a would-be getaway driver when Pride and the others broke in and accosted the drug dealer. The robbery was interrupted by police officers responding to a report of burglary.
When Officer Peter Figoski arrived, he came face-to-face with an armed Pride, police said. The gunman shot Figoski once in the face and tried to run away, but the officer's partner chased him down and arrested him, police said.
Under state law, anyone who participated in a crime that results in a homicide can be charged with murder.
Figoski, 47, was a divorced father of four daughters. Thousands of police officers are expected for his funeral on Monday at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Babylon, 30 miles east of New York City.