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Accused getaway driver acquitted in death of Officer Figoski

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Police Officer Peter Figoski Police Officer Peter Figoski

The man suspected of driving the getaway car in a botched robbery where a New York City police officer died has been cleared of all charges.

A jury acquitted Michael Velez of burglary and murder Wednesday in the death of Police Officer Peter Figoski, who was killed December 12, 2011, by a single shot to the head.

Prosecutors said Velez and four others plotted the robbery the night before, and were interrupted by officers.

Velez testified in his own defense and said he thought he was just giving the men a ride.

The verdict dumbfounded the police department as well as the union that represents uniformed officers.

"When juries fail to comprehend the monstrous scale of a police officer's murder, they fail society itself. 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," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement. "It's shameful that the family of Peter Figoski must be crushed again by another incomprehensible verdict."

The union echoed that sentiment.

"This jury did not exhibit an ounce of the courage that Peter Figoski showed time and time again during his life as a police officer. This is a devastating verdict for all police officers and for the Figoski family," PBA president Patrick Lynch said. "We are deeply disappointed that the jury completely disregarded the role that the defendant played in the death of a brave police officer. While Peter's tragic death brought our city together, today, this jury let the entire city down."

Gunman Lamont Pride was convicted of murder earlier this week but was acquitted of a more serious murder charge that he intentionally killed the officer. He faces 25 to life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 28.

--AP/WNYW

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