Officers Gregory Foster (left) and Rocco Laurie.
The last living suspect in the 1972 assassination shootings of NYPD Officers Rocco Laurie and Gregory Foster — partners targeted as a interracial, “salt-and-pepper” team by the Black Liberation Army — was sentenced to 21 years prison by an Albany judge Thursday, but for selling heroin, not for murder.
It’s partial justice, the murder’s one surviving widow, Adelaide Laurie, said of the sentencing of Robert Vickers, who cops believe was one of the three BLA gunmen who opened fire on the partners on a Lower East Side street.
But she’ll take it.
“Great! Oh my God that’s good news,” Adelaide said Thursday when told of the stiff sentence.
“He will be an old man — if he ever gets out” she said of Vickers, who was found guilty at trial last year of repeatedly selling heroin to a confidential Albany police informant.
“This is not the crime we were looking for, but he’ll be off the street and he’ll not be able to hurt anybody anymore.”
Vickers, who attended his sentencing in a wheelchair, wearing leg and hand-shackles, had faced up to 30 years prison in the case, which has been closely monitored by the NYPD.
The courtroom of Albany County Judge Peter Lynch was packed, with about 30 members of the NYPD and local police present in uniform, staring Vickers down.
The judge said that although Vickers has never been charged in the Foster-Laurie case, the murders permeated the heroin trial — and influenced his sentence. Vickers was caught on tape with a confidential informant describing the corner where the officers were killed.
“Mr. Vickers’ criminal character is from the bark to the core,” the judge said, using a tree analogy.
Presented with a fictitious contract hit job by the CI, Vickers was also caught on tape agreeing to take the money, Prosecutor Jasper Mills told the judge.
“He expresses a willingness to kill someone for financial gain. He says it’s easy to kill someone. The hard part is getting away with it.”
“It will be the 45th anniversary of the cold-blooded murder of police officers Foster and Laurie later this month by what can only be described as domestic terrorists, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said Thursday of the sentencing.
“Police officers never forget their fellow officers who sacrificed their lives in service to the city, nor do we forget those who were not held accountable for the role that we know they played in those officer’s deaths. While we are disappointed that Vickers never served time for his participation in those murders, we are pleased to see that he is being held accountable for peddling poison for profit and that it is likely he won’t survive to walk free again.”
“They ambushed them from behind,” Adelaide recalled Wednesday of the shooting.
Both Laurie and Foster were shot in the back. Witnesses saw the three shooters then pull the dying officers’ guns, and use them to repeatedly continue to shoot them.
The BLA quickly took responsibility. The two other shooting suspects, both BLA members, died soon after in unrelated shootouts with cops — one in New York, and one in St. Louis, with Laurie’s gun in his car.
“My husband was a brave person,” Adelaide told The Post.
“There’s no way if they had confronted him face to face, that he wouldn’t have won. What cowards.”
More than 40 years after the murder, Adelaide still lives in the same Staten Island home she had shared with Laurie.
She never remarried.
“No, no, no,” she said of ever finding someone else.
“He was funny, he was kind, he was thoughtful, he was brave. It is very hard to find someone who would fill those shoes.”
Posted by Photojournalist James P. Grierson