COLLEGE POINT, Queens – 44-year-old Todd Cardillo flew up from Florida for a second, NYPD ceremony honoring his slain father this year — and, for a second time, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did not attend an event designed to “right a wrong” from more than 43 years ago when former Mayor John Lindsey failed to attend the 1972 funeral for Patrolman Phillip Cardillo, who was fatally shot in a racially-charged incident at a Harlem mosque.
Mayor de Blasio was traveling in Israel this past weekend, and when PIX11 asked Commissioner Bratton about the current mayor’s absence, Bratton responded, “You’ll have to ask the mayor that, he received an invitation.”
The mayor’s office issued the following statement on his absence at the renaming:
“The Mayor is grateful to Patrolman Phillip Cardillo and his family for giving the ultimate sacrifice to New York City in his efforts to protect our city’s residents. The Mayor has also been honored to attend street renamings for officers who have died in the line of duty during his administration.”
Commissioner Bratton took pains to apologize for a climate, on April 14, 1972, that led police officials to let 16 suspects leave the mosque, as the crime scene where Cardillo’s blood was spilled was cleaned up by Nation of Islam mosque members.
“It was a shame then, and it’s a shame now,” Bratton said, standing at a podium outside the NYPD’s new Police Academy in College Point, Queens, where a portion of 28th Avenue was about to be renamed Patrolman Phillip Cardillo Way. “It was wrong to give politics jurisdiction over an active crime scene. It was wrong that neither the then-mayor nor police commissioner attended Phil’s funeral. It was wrong to let political pressure interfere with a murder investigation.”
No one has ever been convicted of Cardillo’s murder, although retired Detective Randy Jurgensen wrote a book detailing his involvement in bringing mosque member Louis 17 X Dupree into custody—two years after the Cardillo shooting. A first trial ended with a hung jury, and the second trial ended with an acquittal for Dupree.
Dozens of Cardillo’s former colleagues turned out to honor the slain patrolman, who was only 31 years old—and a father of three—when he was beaten and shot inside the Nation of Islam’s Harlem Mosque # 7 on West 116th Street and Lenox Avenue.
The incident started with a phony 10-13 call, law enforcement jargon for a “police officer in trouble.”
Cops from Harlem’s 28th Precinct and other commands raced to the scene, based on the caller saying a cop was in trouble on the second floor.
On Monday, 43 years and six months later, Phil Cardillo’s youngest son met one of the Harlem cops who responded that day for the first time.
Retired Patrolman Victor Padilla hugged Todd Cardillo and told him some of the last words uttered by Cardillo’s father: “My partner’s upstairs, my partner’s upstairs.”
Padilla recalled about 10 or 12 mosque members came from the “back of the premises. They interlocked arms.”
Padilla said the patrolmen were struggling with some mosque members, trying to get upstairs to a fellow police officer, believed to be in desperate need of assistance.
“We were beaten up; I was knocked down,” an emotional Padilla recalled. “They took my gun; I thought I was going to die. And I heard three shots go off.”
At least two of those shots apparently hit Patrolman Phillip Cardillo. Cardillo’s police-issued gun had been taken from him and that was the weapon used to shoot him.
When the doors to the mosque were locked by Nation of Islam members, some NYPD officers shot out a glass window and got inside.
The 16 suspects were taken into custody in the basement.
The NYPD Chief of Detectives, Al Seedman, arrived to supervise.
But when Minister Louis Farrakhan, who ran the mosque, turned up with Congressman Charles Rangel and Deputy NYPD Commissioner Benjamin Ward, things drastically changed.
White officers were ordered to leave the mosque and then the suspects were released, told to turn up at a local precinct that evening.
That never happened.
Ward later apologized to Minister Farrakhan for armed officers entering the mosque.
As for Mayor John Lindsey, he was hoping to run for president in 1972 and didn’t want New York City to break out in race riots.
On Monday, Bratton pointed out that between 1971 and 1973, “We lost 26 officers in the line of duty….26 cops in three years,” during a time when officers were being targeted by domestic terrorists like The Weathermen and Black Liberation Army.
The highest-ranking city official present at the Monday ceremony in Queens was Public Advocate, Letitia James, who is the #2 elected, city official behind Mayor de Blasio. Some members of the crowd cringed as James repeatedly mispronounced Cardillo’s name while making a short speech. She received polite applause afterwards, saying of the slain Cardillo “It was a disgrace and a shame at the time of his death, the city did not recognize his life and sacrifice.”
Earlier this summer, the NYPD launched a brand-new, 70-foot harbor boat named for Patrolman Phillip Cardillo.
The street re-naming was later approved by Community Board 7 in Queens, with the proposal presented to the City Council by Council Member Paul Vallone.
The City Council pushed the renaming through by a vote of 44-0.
Mayor de Blasio signed the approval for the renaming.
An emotional Vallone spoke at the ceremony Monday, relaying how his young son, Charles, responded—when he told the boy about the event to honor Patrolman Cardillo.
“He’s with the angels, dad,” the child said.
The emotional high point of the ceremony came from Todd Cardillo, who was only a year old when his father was killed.
“I always was told growing up that my father was a hero, and he is,” a choked-up Todd Cardillo told the crowd on 28th Avenue, “but not for the reasons I thought.”
Pausing briefly, Todd Cardillo continued on. “I always thought he was a hero, because he gave his life and he lost his life. (But) he was a hero because he put on his uniform and he wore that shield and he did his job the way it should be done.” Cardillo then called on the NYPD recruits who will pass through the Police Academy doors to do the same thing, saying they would be the heroes of the future.
After the black cloth came off the new street sign—and the NYPD chopper buzzed overhead—Todd Cardillo’s face showed a mixture of sadness and happy relief, as the crowd sang “God Bless America,”—and Todd Cardillo finally smiled.