The Perfect Storm: Killed in the Line of Duty

Does society have a special duty to those on the front line?

While humans are inherently fallible,  Peter Figoski by all accounts, was less so than most.  He was an NYPD Patrol Officer with 22 years of experience and a devoted father of four daughters.

This past Monday he was shot to death in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, while responding to a home invasion.  His alleged attacker was arrested immediately afterwards.  The details of his assailant’s time in New York and the weapon used, paint a deeply  disturbing picture of the out-of-the-public-eye aspect of our systems of justice and how we protect those who serve.

It is a perfect storm where the fatal casualty is a public guardian who is very reliant on the system’s proper functioning.

Lamont Pride of North Carolina, who has been arrested in the shooting, had been arrested twice in recent months in New York, once for possession of a knife and the other for possession of cocaine and child endangerment.

While in jail this Fall, it was determined that Pride had an outstanding warrant for a shooting in North Carolina, where he also has an extensive criminal record.  The North Carolina warrant was for “in-state” extradition only, so Pride remained free  in New York despite the fact that he was a known violent criminal being sought by the police.

NYPD was in contact with police in Greensboro, NC, without result.  For whatever reason, police there did not travel to New York to apprehend Pride.

After that contact, and while Pride was still in jail, there was a hearing in New York before a criminal court judge regarding the drug charge.   The judge was apprised of the outstanding North Carolina warrant, but released Pride, without bail.  He skipped his subsequent appearance in court.  Whatever the circumstances in the New York case, the judge knew she had a violent offender with an outstanding warrant.

In addition to a police agency in North Carolina and a judge in New York  failing to keep a dangerous criminal in custody, the gun used in the murder was sold from the same gun shop in Virginia responsible for at least one other New York homicide, that of a toddler in the early 90’s.  Both the availability of guns and their origin are subjects of fierce debate in New York and elsewhere.

According to the New York Times, Paul Brown, NYPD spokesperson, said, “The person responsible for Officer Figoski’s death is the one who pulled the trigger, not the authorities in North Carolina.”  Such a statement from a person in significant authority in the police department is both ignorant and reckless and is tantamount to blaming the sinking of the Titanic solely on the iceberg.  It completely fails to acknowledge the aggregate multiple system failures that led to Pride and Figoski being in the same place at the same time on Monday night.

In this time of festive holiday merriment it is especially easy to con ourselves into dismissing the death of Peter Figoski as another New York aberration and that we and those we care for are safe and sound beyond the threat of justice gone errant.  And fools we would be for doing it.  His death conclusively proves that the thread of violence is both long and strong.  When we let our systems fail, that thread will tangle up the judges and the police till it strikes like the venomous snake it is.  Human tragedy is the inevitable result.

And then, the questions begin.


Sources:  NYT, Newsday, NY1, NYDN

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