GREENSBORO, N.C. – The murder of New York Police office Peter Figoski shocked his neighbor. Figoski died after being shot by Lamont Pride of Greensboro.
What's even more puzzling is that Pride could have been in jail or prison in North Carolina, which may have prevented officer Figoski from crossing paths with Pride.
In September 2011 Greensboro police issued an arrest warrant for Pride. Detectives say he shot a man in the foot. But police never thought he'd leave Greensboro, so they didn't check the extradite box on Pride's warrant. Two months later and 500 miles away, New York City police picked Pride up on drug charges.
Once Greensboro Police realized Pride should be brought back, they did the paperwork to have him brought back and it was too late. A New York judge let Pride walk free on the drug charges.
"I breathed a sigh of relief because I didn't think that I was going to make it as far as I did when I walked out of that courtroom, and it really shocked me," Pride said. "And I was in surprise that they actually let me walk out of there with a warrant for my arrest that serious."
One month later, Pride killed Officer Figoski.
How did this happen?
All felony warrants go into an F-B-I database. A review of those records shows law enforcement agencies across North Carolina did not check the extradite box on more than 60 percent of warrants.That means if they're caught in another state the other agency is not obligated to arrest them or hold them until we can pick them up. Believe it or not, that is more than 12-thousand people who could escape justice simply because they crossed state lines.
Of course law enforcement would love to bring everybody back. But Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann says tight budgets limit resources.
"And if we spend all of that, then they are going to start taking it from somewhere else. So we try to be diligent in looking after the taxpayer dollar," Neumann said.
So for every warrant...a Prosecutor balances these factors:
Type of case - was it violent crime, sexual assault - or just drug possession?
The likely outcome of the case - How long will the person spend behind bars?
And the strength of the case.
Take Lamont Pride. Looking back, Neumann says the case lacked key elements.
"The victim was someone who was uncooperative," Neumann said.
And Neumann says bringing fugitives back isn't always best. After all they can still get out on bail.
"If we can keep bad people out of Guilford county then that's bad people who aren't committing crimes here and everybody is safer. And I don't think the citizens really care how we keep them out. It's cheaper to keep them out in another state than it is to keep them in a prison somewhere," Neumann said.