EXCLUSIVE: Slain Patrolman Phillip Cardillo one step closer to getting public honor

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COLLEGE POINT, Queens (PIX11) -- NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo -- who was beaten, shot and slain 42 years ago in a racially charged incident inside Harlem Mosque #7 -- is one step closer to receiving public recognition for his ultimate sacrifice, PIX11 News learned on Wednesday.

But the public honor would be coming in Queens, where Cardillo grew up, and not in Harlem, where he died.

PIX11 News obtained a copy of a letter sent by Community Board 7 in Queens to City Councilman Paul Vallone. District Manager Marilyn Bitterman informed Vallone that Board 7 had voted unanimously on Nov. 10 to re-name the street outside  the NYPD’s brand-new Police Academy in College Point “Police Officer Phillip Cardillo Way.”

Cardillo was killed 42 years ago inside Harlem Mosque #7.

Cardillo was killed 42 years ago inside Harlem Mosque #7.

The honor would be a political compromise of sorts, after more than four decades of effort by Cardillo’s NYPD colleagues to get him honored for his line-of-duty death. And the re-naming still needs City Council approval.

“Obviously, it’s not what we wanted -- in Harlem, where my dad worked,” Todd Cardillo said on the phone Wednesday night from his home in Florida, “but I think, you know, going to the Police Academy where all the new recruits are going to see his name, I think that’s a pretty great thing.”

Lionel Morales, who is Council Member Vallone’s Director of Communications, explained to PIX 11 News Thursday there could be a five or six month delay, before the Council votes on “Patrolman Phillip Cardillo Way.”

That’s because the Council considers these matters just twice a year—and recently voted on a number of street re-namings in October 2014, before Community Board 7 met on November 10th to approve the honor for Cardillo.

Even though the re-naming of a portion of 28th Avenue, between College Point Boulevard and Ulmer Street in Queens, still needs the Council’s approval, the positive vote from Community Board 7 was considered a key hurdle to overcome.

Cardillo’s family and supporters could not overcome that hurdle at Community Board 10 in Harlem, where law enforcement officers past and present lobbied to have the street outside Harlem’s 28th Precinct, where Cardillo served, re-named in his memory.

Cardillo's son hopes young police recruits will learn from his father's memory.

Cardillo's son hopes young police recruits will learn from his father's memory.

A former commanding officer at the 28th Precinct, Inspector Rodney Harrison, came very close to getting the sign approved in Harlem, but the plan failed when some community leaders worried naming a portion of the street for Cardillo—even outside the police station house—would re-open old wounds.

In July 2014, PIX11 News flew to Florida to interview Cardillo’s youngest son, Todd, and Cardillo’s former partner from the 28th Precinct, retired Detective Rudy Andre.

Andre responded to what turned out to be a phony 10-13 — police officer in trouble — call on April 14, 1972, and arrived to find several officers getting beaten in the vestibule of Mosque # 7 on West 116th Street, which was run by the Nation of Islam.

When Andre entered, he discovered Cardillo bleeding from his nose and mouth. He did not know at the time that someone had taken Cardillo’s police gun and shot the 31-year-old officer, a father of three, in the torso. Cardillo died six days later in the hospital.

The Harlem Mosque incident was a troubled chapter in NYPD history.


Then-Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward arrived on the scene with mosque leader Louis Farrakhan and Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel. Sixteen mosque members were being held in the basement as suspects in the beatings and shooting.

Ward ordered all white officers to leave the scene, apparently hoping to defuse the tense situation. He let the 16 suspects go, with assurances they would return to the precinct for questioning that evening. That never happened.

Retired Detective Randy Jurgensen was hit by a brick in the melee that followed outside.

Two years later, he would get a witness to finger mosque member, Louis 17 X Dupree, as the gunman. The first trial ended in a hung jury, and Dupree was acquitted in the second trial.

Jurgensen wrote a book called “Circle of Six," which detailed the political considerations made by city officials that impeded justice in the Cardillo case. The crime scene was never preserved. Then-Mayor John Lindsay and former police commissioner Patrick Murphy did not attend Cardillo’s funeral.

On Wednesday evening, Todd Cardillo was cautiously optimistic that his late father will finally get his due. Todd was 1 year old when his father was killed. He hopes the new generation of police recruits will see his dad’s name and check out the history behind it.

“They have to learn from the history; otherwise, it might repeat itself,” he told PIX11. “Maybe some of them are going to see the name and they’re going to look it up.  His name will be there and embedded in these young recruits’ minds.”