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Driver's Acquittal in Cop Killing Sparks Outrage

By Aidan Gardiner | February 14, 2013 10:27am

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The man accused of driving others to a botched robbery that resulted in the death of New York police Officer Peter Figoski was acquitted of all charges Wednesday.

The decision was called a slap in the face for the grieving officer's family by law enforcement officials.

A Brooklyn jury cleared Michael Velez, 22, of the burglary and murder charges against him after he testified that he thought he was just driving his passengers to a relative's house on Dec. 12, 2011. He denied knowing of their robbery plans.

Velez's acquittal came just three days after Figoski's killer, Lamont Pride, was cleared of aggravated murder — which carries a life sentence without parole — and instead convicted of a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly blasted Velez's acquittal and the failure to convict Pride of the more serious charge, faulting the jury for being too lenient.

"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," he said in a statement.

"It’s shameful that the family of Peter Figoski must be crushed again by another incomprehensible verdict."