NEW YORK (PIX11) -- Henrietta Lyle, the chairperson of Community Board 10 in central Harlem, called PIX 11 Investigates Tuesday evening to tell us her board “has never opposed” a public honor for slain Patrolman Phillip Cardillo. Lyle said the decision regarding a street sign to memorialize Cardillo, who was fatally shot in the 1972 Harlem Mosque incident, would have to be made after a meeting between police groups and the mosque community in Harlem.
“They will sit down and talk about this and tell the Community Board what they want to do,” Lyle insisted to PIX 11. “As you know, this is a very sensitive issue.”
On April 14, 1972, Patrolman Phillip Cardillo responded to a 10-13 call—officer in need of assistance—at 102 West 116th Street in Harlem. Cardillo and three other officers entered the mosque, where they got into a dispute with members of the National of Islam, who ran what was called Mosque # 7. It turned out the 10-13 call was a “fake”—and when other investigators responded, they found the front door “dead bolted” and saw two officers being beaten through the windows. When they finally got in, detectives found Officer Cardillo bleeding on the floor, along with another cop. It turned out Cardillo had also been shot. Cardillo died six days later from a wound to the torso. Someone had shot Cardillo with his NYPD gun.
The incident spawned a melee on the street outside, where other cops and reporters were hit with bottles and bricks thrown from rooftops. The Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, arrived at the mosque in a rage, demanding that officers get out of the holy place. Later, Deputy NYPD Commissioner, Ben Ward, told “all white officers to leave the scene,” according to retired detective Rudy Andre, who chased mosque members to the basement that day with other cops.
Most of the suspects were let go and, Mayor John Lindsay—who hoped to be named the Democratic presidential candidate later that year—did not attend Cardillo’s funeral. Neither did Police Commissioner, Patrick Murphy.
Two years later, Detective Randy Jurgensen—who was hit by a brick that April day—arrested a suspect, Lewis 17 X Dupree. Dupree was fingered by another mosque member as the person who grabbed Patrolman Cardillo’s gun and fired the shot that ultimately killed Cardillo.
Dupree went on trial twice. The first case ended with a hung jury. In the second trial, Dupree was found “not guilty.”
Detective Jurgensen said the fact that mosque members had mopped up Cardillo’s blood and there was no preserved “crime scene” negatively impacted the case.
Now, 42 years after the fatal shooting, Cardillo’s case is getting fresh attention—as the NYPD gets set to open a brand-new police academy in College Point, Queens. The library will be named
for the late Police Commissioner, Ben Ward. Cardillo’s youngest son, Todd, wants to know why Ward would get this honor.
“He was instrumental in the fall of the case,” Todd Cardillo told PIX 11 Investigates, when we visited him at his home in Palm Coast, Florida. “He was part of the reason there was no crime scene.”
Todd Cardillo doesn’t buy the argument that putting up a street sign in his father’s honor—outside the 28th Precinct—would open up old wounds.
“Who in the community got wounded?” Todd Cardillo asked. “Who was hurt? My family was hurt.”
PIX 11 asked NYPD Commissioner, Bill Bratton, and Mayor Bill DeBlasio about the Cardillo case—and both responded the police department would look for a way to give a public honor to the slain officer. But both city officials added that community boards make decisions about street signs.
Todd Cardillo was only a year old, when his father was killed. His older brother was five and his sister was three. His mother, Joyce—who was Phillip Cardillo’s high school sweetheart in Astoria, Queens-- never re-married. Joyce Cardillo died in her 60’s. When PIX 11 noted to her son that his mom passed away fairly young, he pointed out, “My father was only 31.”
On Tuesday evening, Henrietta Lyle of Community Board 10 wanted to make it clear to PIX 11 she’s hopeful the mosque community of Harlem will sit down with police representatives and reach some sort of understanding.
“We want to do the right thing,” Lyle said, “and that’s why we were grateful they were going to talk it over.”
The process of talking it over was supposed to begin nine months ago, after a Town Hall meeting. The Cardillo family had been waiting 42 years for a public honor that will recognize Phillip Cardillo’s ultimate sacrifice, in the line of duty.