A veteran New York City police officer dabbed his eyes with a tissue, gulped water from a paper cup and spoke in bursts Monday as he recalled the night 13 months ago when his partner was slain on the steps leading to a dingy basement apartment in a Brooklyn house.
Glenn Estrada said he had chased one suspect who fled from the house and was returning to the scene at 25 Pine St. in East New York when he thought something might be wrong.
His patrol partner of four years and fellow West Babylon resident, Peter Figoski, was not answering his cellphone.
"I had a lot of bad feeling about what could have happened at the scene," Estrada said in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn at the trial of two of the men charged with killing Figoski: Lamont Pride, 28, of North Carolina, and Michael Velez, 22, of Queens.
As Estrada got back to the scene, he saw Figoski on a stretcher. "EMS was rolling him out to the ambulance," he said. "I helped get him into the ambulance and I proceeded to go with him."
Figoski, 47, a 22-year veteran officer, was pronounced dead several hours later at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, but Estrada was back on the street helping detectives by then, he said.
Estrada, a 16-year veteran, was promoted to detective shortly after the slaying.
Figoski and Estrada were backing up two other officers who had gone into the basement ahead of them to investigate what was reported as a robbery, turned out to be a drug deal gone bad and ended in a night of chaos.
The first officers walked toward the rear of the basement to help three men they thought were robbery victims. They passed a room where Pride and Velez were hiding, prosecutors said, and as the officers were helping the supposed victims, Pride slipped out of a side room behind them. Just as he was making his escape, he ran into Figoski on the stairs. Estrada was outside, struggling with another suspect, police said.
Prosecutor Kenneth Taub told the jurors in his opening statement last week that Pride shot Figoski in the head before he could draw his semiautomatic service weapon. Outside the house, Estrada lost his grip on his suspect, he said, and he turned to chase Pride when he saw him flee the basement with an object in his hand that appeared to be a gun.
Pride was arrested after a zigzag chase through the streets that was replayed in court yesterday in snippets from several security video cameras that were along the chase route.
One of the first officers to enter the basement, Mario Gandini, on the force for seven years, testified that as he returned to the front of the building he realized the bloodied officer sprawled on the stairs had to be Figoski, a senior officer in the precinct. He knew because the backup weapon in Figoski's waistband was a revolver, not one of the new semiautomatics that are now standard equipment and favored as a backup by younger officers.
Biting his lower lip repeatedly, Gandini said he rushed upstairs and told other officers, "Pete's down there. I need help getting him out." ___