A retired city police officer pleaded guilty on Monday to fatally shooting a retired Port Authority officer in 2006, as part of a plea agreement that will send him to prison for 21 years, according to Staten Island prosecutors.
The retired city officer, Allen Lau, 48, who spent much of his 20-year career patrolling the Upper East Side, had been charged with second-degree murder and weapons violations in the killing of Steven Vitale, 55, of Staten Island, a decorated officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who retired in 1994 after 21 years on the force.
In State Supreme Court on Staten Island, Mr. Lau, who retired in 2005, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in exchange for a 21-year prison sentence. The original murder charge carried a maximum penalty of 25 years to life.
By pleading guilty, Mr. Lau, also of Staten Island, waived his rights to any future appeals and removed the burden of proof from the prosecution, said Daniel M. Donovan Jr., the Staten Island district attorney.
Prosecutors said that in April 2006, Mr. Lau pulled up behind Mr. Vitale’s pickup truck at a red light in the New Springville section of Staten Island. Mr. Vitale’s wife, Karen, who was with her husband, later told the police that Mr. Lau blew his horn when the light turned green, brandished a handgun and then proceeded to follow them into the parking lot of a strip mall.
As the couple stepped out of their vehicle, Mr. Lau stepped out of his. Then, Mr. Lau opened fire. In all, prosecutors said, Mr. Lau fired 15 shots from a 9-millimeter Glock pistol, several of which struck Mr. Vitale.
Mr. Lau fled to his home nearby, where he remained for more than four hours. Police negotiators eventually coaxed him out. He emerged with a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other, in a drunken “stupor,” one witness said. Once inside the house, officers found a small arsenal of weapons, including a silencer, ammunition for two kinds of shotguns, a magazine for a semiautomatic rifle and a 9-millimeter Luger automatic pistol.
Mr. Lau had killed another man, in 1991, when he stumbled upon a burglary in progress. When one burglar saw Mr. Lau, he attempted to rob him. Mr. Lau fatally shot the man, the police said. The robber’s gun turned out to be fake. The department ruled the shooting justified.
Mr. Vitale was remembered as a hero of the first attack on the World Trade Center. During his career, he was awarded the Medal of Valor, a police commendation medal, four police meritorious medals and four exceptional Police Department medals from the Port Authority.