2015-02-25 / Features

Recognition For Cardillo After Four Decades

BY JASON D. ANTOS


Astoria resident, Police Officer Phillip Cardillo, who was killed in Harlem at Mosque Number 7 in 1972, will be remembered with a street co-naming sometime in the near future, outside the new police academy in College Point. Astoria resident, Police Officer Phillip Cardillo, who was killed in Harlem at Mosque Number 7 in 1972, will be remembered with a street co-naming sometime in the near future, outside the new police academy in College Point. “Ten-Thirteen.” Two words a police officer never wants to hear used in the line of duty. It is an emergency code meaning that a fellow officer needs help.

For Astoria resident Phillip Cardillo, a five-year veteran of the NYPD, it would be the last call he would ever respond to.

Those two words would change the lives of the men and women who wore the badge of the NYPD on Friday, April 14, 1972 forever.

Before it was all over, the city would hear of the death of Cardillo, only 32, and a highly respected officer, as well as the wounding of several other officers and Harlem brought almost to the brink of a full-scale race riot.

Forty-three years later, Cardillo’s family, the officers who were there that day and also current members of the NYPD are still waiting for justice.

And now, for the first time in decades, there is hope that a street co-naming honoring the fallen officer will take place sometime in the very near future outside the new NYPD Academy in College Point.

But the street co-naming comes as a bittersweet victory, for no one has ever had to spend a day in jail in the murder of Cardillo.

The only person arrested for the death of Cardillo, who was shot at Mosque Number 7 in Harlem, was the mosque school’s dean, a man named Lewis 17X Dupree.

Two years after the shooting and an exhaustive investigation led by Detective Randy Jurgensen, who was on the scene that day, prosecutors brought charges against Dupree, after an informant who witnessed the incident testified against him. The first trial culminated in a hung jury and Dupree was later acquitted at the second.

“I am telling you here for the very first time, the case is closed,” said Jurgensen in an  
Retired NYPD Detective Randy Jurgensen headed the investigation which led to the arrest of the prime suspect in the shooting murder of Phillip Cardillo, Lewis 17X Dupree. The events of that day and the investigation, along with its aftermath, are chronicled in his book, Circle of Six. 
Photo Jason D. Antos Retired NYPD Detective Randy Jurgensen headed the investigation which led to the arrest of the prime suspect in the shooting murder of Phillip Cardillo, Lewis 17X Dupree. The events of that day and the investigation, along with its aftermath, are chronicled in his book, Circle of Six. Photo Jason D. Antos interview with the Gazette. “No one is going to pay the piper for what happened to Phil Cardillo.”

Jurgensen to this day protests the acquittal of Dupree saying, “Being found not guilty is not being found innocent.”

Dupree was sentenced up to 15 years on a narcotics conviction back in the early 1980s. 

For the past four years Jurgensen, along with retired Police Officer Timothy Motto, have tried to get a street named for Cardillo outside the 28th Precinct, where he was assigned at the time of his murder. Although met with a favorable response it was ultimately denied, claiming that the conaming would “open up old wounds.”

At 11:41 a.m. on that fateful day, a call was made to 911 by a “Detective Thomas of the 28th Precinct” reporting a 10-13 at 102 West 116th St. in Harlem. The address turned out to be the location of Mosque Number 7, headed by Minister Louis Farrakhan. Responding to the call was Cardillo, accompanied by his partner, Vito Navarra. Two additional officers, Victor Padilla and Ivan Negron, arrived at the mosque the same moment.

The four patrolmen, believing that one of their fellow officers was in trouble, entered the mosque. Once inside they found the place to be eerily silent and abandoned. They quickly came face to face with dozens and dozens of members of the Fruit of Islam. Two metal doors were suddenly closed behind them and Cardillo, Navarra, Padilla and Negron were trapped. The call about a 10-13 was fake. It was bait used to lure them in.

As other officers, including Jurgensen, who was on a stakeout nearby, rushed to the scene to help the “officer” in trouble, the cries of Cardillo and his men could be heard coming over the police radios. Now there really was a situation. The officers were beaten severely and their guns were taken from them. Powerless and outnumbered, all they could do was try to survive until helpe arrived.

Officer Rudy Andre arrived at the scene, entered the mosque, and found the four men being brutally beaten. Unable to get through the doors that were bolted from the inside, Andre took his gun and fired through the small glass window in the door sending the attackers scattering in all directions and in the process severing a major artery in his arm.

When it was all over, Navarra, Padilla and Negron lay severely beaten with mutilated faces and Cardillo, stripped of his firearm, was shot at point blank range and died six days later on April 20.

Jurgensen documented the case in his book, Circle of Six, which detailed how corrupt politics impeded justice in the Cardillo case. The crime scene was never preserved. Then-Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward arrived on the scene with Farrakhan and Congressman Charles Rangel. Ward ordered all white officers to leave the scene, hoping to defuse the tense situation and let 16 suspects held by officers go with assurances they would return to the precinct for questioning that evening. They have yet to show up.

Mayor John V. Lindsay and Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy did not attend Cardillo’s funeral.

The case of Cardillo's murder and aftermath even reached the White House and the Nixon administration.

Fast forward to 2015.

“This street renaming would be the absolute last thing we could do for Phil,” said Jurgensen.

Last fall Community Board 7 in Flushing unanimously approved the co-naming of a section of 28th Avenue, from College Point Boulevard to Ulmer Street in front of the new police academy in College Point, “Police Officer Phillip Cardillo Way.”

Also, according to Jurgensen, a brand-new $6 million police boat will also be named in memory of Cardillo.

Cardillo’s son, Todd, who was only one year old when his father was slain, said in an interview that although the street co-naming isn’t justice, it is, however, a good thing for all the recruits at the new academy to see it. It will also represent some closure to the officers who were wounded inside and outside the mosque during the attack and riot.

Now that CB 7 has voted favorably, Councilman Paul Vallone introduced the bill authorizing the renaming to the City Council Parks and Recreation Committee last November, and it is expected to be passed by the Council this spring.

“This would be a remarkable conclusion. Never forget Officer Phillip Cardillo,” said Motto.

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