Cardillo

Remember Cardillo

On an April morning forty-five years ago, NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo was gunned down in a Nation of Islam mosque in Harlem. He died six days later. New York’s political and police leadership abandoned Cardillo within hours of the shooting. No one was ever convicted of the crime. The case was a sensation back in the day. Does it matter anymore?

It still matters to the Cardillo family, who have endured decades of controversy over the murder. It still matters to the thin blue line in New York, where “Remember Cardillo” became a watchword for a generation of cops, evoking the treason of the brass and the gnawing sense that a cloud of lies and cover-up had descended over the case.

Many details about the death of Cardillo remain hidden in the files of the NYPD and the FBI, but we do know a few things.

We know there was a cover-up.

A special prosecutor assigned to examine the Cardillo case concluded there was an “orchestrated effort” by members of the NYPD “to impede” the probe. The lead detective in the case wrote a scathing memoir, “Circle of Six,” accusing members of the city’s political and police establishment of a “purposeful negligence of duty” in the Cardillo affair. A Judicial Watch investigation unearthed a secret NYPD report containing evidence that was withheld from New York detectives and prosecutors.

Judicial Watch’s investigation also uncovered FBI surveillance reports linked to the main suspect in the murder, a Nation of Islam member known as Lewis 17X Dupree. And we published details of a covert FBI program targeting black radicals believed to be behind the assassination of police officers. Some evidence suggests that the secret, high-stakes Operation Newkill manhunt may have intersected with the Cardillo killing. You can read our investigative report here.

We know that for decades, every attempt to get to the bottom of the Cardillo case has hit the rocks. That includes an initial police investigation, a secret NYPD probe and the special prosecutor inquiry. And more.

Stung by a public outcry after the initial investigation went nowhere, the NYPD tried again. It handed the case to Randy Jurgensen, an NYPD detective highly regarded by his peers. Mr. Jurgensen’s probe was fiercely resisted by NYPD brass, but the headstrong detective persisted. Eventually he found a witness and gathered enough evidence to arrest Mr. Dupree. Mr. Dupree’s first trial resulted in a hung jury. He was acquitted at a second trial. Decades later, trial prosecutors told Judicial Watch they never saw important evidence then in the possession of senior NYPD officials and did not know the FBI had mosque members under surveillance.

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Remembering & Honoring Phil Cardillo

An update from Micah: It was such a pleasure to receive this honor from the Retired Detectives Association of the NYPD in the Bronx on January 13. It meant so much to me and my family. Along with the police brotherhood, and particularly the current and former members of the 2-8 Precinct, we remember and honor Phil Cardillo.

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JUDICIAL WATCH PRESS RELEASE

New York City Retired Detectives Association to Honor Judicial Watch Chief Investigative Reporter Micah Morrison for Investigation of Murder of Police Officer

JANUARY 11, 2016

Morrison’s explosive April New York Post article exposed lurid details about only unsolved police killing in modern NYPD history
   

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on January 13, 2016, the Retired Detectives Association of the New York City Police Department will honor Judicial Watch and Chief Investigative Reporter Micah Morrison for their investigation of one of the most notorious cold cases in New York City’s history: the April 1972 shooting death of New York Police Department Patrolman Phillip Cardillo inside Louis Farrakhan’s Mosque #7 in Harlem.

The murder of Cardillo, quickly tabbed the “Harlem Mosque Incident,” is the only unsolved police killing in modern NYPD history. According to the Retired Detectives Association, Morrison’s probing investigation and revealing April 2015 New York Post article – “Did the FBI Accidentally Kill an NYPD Officer” – “gives new meaning to the words ‘Never Forget.’”

Morrison’s Judicial Watch investigation uncovered significant new documents and leads in the case, including new evidence of the FBI’s role in the 1972 events. According to Morrison’s New York Post news article:

Confidential FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act raise questions about the extent of the FBI’s involvement in the Cardillo affair.

One COINTELPRO [FBI’s secret counterintelligence program during the Nixon administration] tactic was the use of anonymous or “pretext” phone calls — FBI agents posing as someone else — to disrupt targeted groups.

A February 1968 COINTELPRO memo from the FBI’s New York field office to headquarters seeks permission to make “anonymous and other pretext phone calls . . . to neutralize and frustrate the activities of these black nationalists.”

The anonymous phone calls could sow dissent (“there’s an informant in your ranks”) or even get the police to conduct raids and break up meetings.

Six targets are noted in the memo. Four of the names have been blacked out by FBI censors.

“Could that fake 10-13 call sending cops to the mosque have been an FBI ‘pretext call’ gone terribly wrong?” asks Jurgensen [NYPD detective in charge of Cardillo investigation]. “Or could the FBI have had a high-level informant inside the mosque who was somehow involved and has been protected all these years? I don’t know. Only the FBI knows. But look at the Whitey Bulger case in Boston — there’s a situation where an individual was both a killer and an FBI informant.”

In a New York Post op-ed immediately following Morrison’s reporting, former prosecutors and detectives associated with the Cardillo case called upon FBI Director James Comey to “right a grievous wrong and make one last effort to find justice for a slain police officer: open the FBI ‘Special File Room and conduct a comprehensive search of all FBI files related” to the Cardillo killing.

Despite such calls, those responsible for Cardillo’s murder continue to evade capture more than four decades later. And the notorious Harlem Mosque Incident has become one of the most controversial cases in NYPD history. It has been described as a tale of betrayal and cover-up, race and politics, played out across what, at the time, was a disintegrating city. [For a full, captivating exposé of the crime and its aftermath, read Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin Killing Cardillo: What Did the FBI Know and When Did They Know It?.”]

“Officer Cardillo’s murder, over 40 years ago, is relevant today, and Judicial Watch is proud that Micah Morrison’s investigative reporting is being recognized by the Retired Detectives Association of the New York City Police Department,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We are proud of Micah’s tireless investigation, and Judicial Watch joins with New York’s law enforcement community in calling on the FBI to make a thorough search of all its files for informant, wiretap and electronic-surveillance records related to the Cardillo killing.”

The awards banquet at which Judicial Watch and Morrison will be honored will be held at 6:30 on Wednesday, January 13, at Frankie and Johnnies Pine Restaurant in the Bronx. For additional information, call 718-792-595

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Investigative Update: Key Figures Call on FBI Director to Open Cardillo Files

Responding to my stories (below) in the New York Post and on Judicial Watch’s website, four senior law-enforcement  figures in the original Cardillo investigation have called on FBI Director James Comey to open the FBI’s secret files on the case. James Harmon, John Van Lindt, Randy Jurgensen and one NYPD detective who wished to remain anonymous called on Comey “to right a grievous wrong and make one last effort to find justice for a slain police officer.”

“In particular,” they noted, “the FBI should conduct a thorough search of its special file room for all documents pertaining to the Nation of Islam and COINTELPRO, Operation Newkill, the Harlem Mosque Incident and Phillip Cardillo. It should focus on informant, wiretap and electronic-surveillance records. The documents should be provided to the Manhattan DA and made public. Justice however long delayed is still justice.”

The open letter to Director Comey was published in the Post. Read it here.

 

Killing Cardillo: What Did The FBI Know & When Did They Know It?

Yesterday, the New York Post ran my investigative report on a very cold case: the mortal wounding of NYPD Patrolman Phillip Cardillo inside Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque #7 in Harlem in April, 1972. The “Harlem Mosque Incident” would become one of the most controversial cases in NYPD history—a tale of betrayal and cover-up, race and politics, played out across a disintegrating city.

I’m grateful to the Post for getting behind a story that raises the disturbing possibility that the FBI was deeply involved in the events surrounding Cardillo’s death. Due to space limitations at the newspaper, some of the supporting material had to be cut. Judicial Watch’s Investigative Bulletin is posting the story here in full. If the Post’s terrific version was enough for you, stop here. If you want more—and with apologies for some overlap between the two—read on.

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Did an FBI call accidentally kill an NYPD officer?

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First published in the New York Post, April 19, 2015

Today, the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club will ride in honor of Phillip Cardillo, an NYPD officer who was killed 43 years ago inside a Harlem mosque. Later this year, it’s expected that the street in front of the new police academy in Queens will be named after Cardillo.

It’s a belated honor for the only unsolved police killing in modern NYPD history — a case, writes investigative reporter Micah Morrison, that may have an unlikely culprit.

At 11:41 am, April 14, 1972, a call came into the NYPD’s communication division.

“Hello, this is Detective Thomas of the 28th Precinct.”

“Yeah.”

“I have a 10-13 West 116th Street.”

“102 West 116th?”

“Right, that’s on the second floor.”

“Second floor?”

“Right”

“Hold on.”

But the caller hung up.

A 10-13 is every cop’s worst nightmare, a red alert meaning “officer in distress.”

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Cardillo Murder Mystery: What Does Charlie Rangel Know?

Representative Charles Bernard Rangel has enjoyed a long career serving the residents of the Fifteenth District in Harlem. He was born there in 1930 to a seamstress mother and an absent father. The United States Army was his ticket out of poverty. Awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor in the Battle of Kunu-ri in the Korean War, he worked as a federal prosecutor and a member of the State Assembly. In 1971, he defeated a Harlem giant, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., for a seat in the House of Representatives. He’s been there ever since, serving twenty-one terms. A black man who fought his way up in the white man’s world, Charlie Rangel is no pushover. Today, at 81, he’s in the fight of his political life against State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who is seeking to ride the changing demographics of the district into Congress.

All this may go some way to explaining the backstory to one of the enduring mysteries of Rangel’s career: precisely what he did and said on the morning of April 14, 1972, in Louis Farrakhan’s Mosque #7 in Harlem, as Patrolman Phillip Cardillo lay dying. The episode is back in the news with a controversy over a modest attempt to honor Cardillo by naming a small street in the precinct he served “Phillip Cardillo Way.” Last week, the website DNAinfo broke the news that the putative deciding body in the matter, Community Board 10, has declined to approve the street naming, saying it might “open old wounds” and that they wanted a letter from local imams approving the move. Never mind that the only “wounds” suffered were the ones inflicted on Cardillo and other cops on the scene. Or that the Harlem imams have already given their tacit approval to the plan. The New York Times, Daily News and Fox followed up.

When CBS reporter Tony Aiello asked Rangel if he supported naming a street for Cardillo, the congressman not only dodged the question but launched a weird denunciation of the newsman, saying “this is an opportunity to show that you’re much smarter than your question.”

“The past is never dead,” Faulkner famously said. “It’s not even past.” Today, the NYPD’s relationship with mosques and Muslims is again news. Forty years ago, Cardillo and three other patrolmen were lured into an apparent ambush in Mosque #7 by a fake “officer in distress” call. In the ensuing melee, all four officers were badly beaten and Cardillo was shot. Rangel–a newly minted congressman for the district–and mosque leader Louis Farrakhan were quickly on the scene. So was Albert Seedman, the legendary NYPD Chief of Detectives.

Outside, a riot was brewing. It was an evil season in New York, a time of Weatherman and the Black Liberation Army, urban terrorists, cop killers and bombers. At the mosque, the police had sixteen suspects in the basement, almost certainly the shooter among them. Seedman encountered Rangel and Farrakhan in the basement. For nearly forty years, Seedman kept silent about the events of that day. Last year, he spoke to writer Peter Hellman.

According to Hellman’s account, Rangel told Seedman that a senior police official “wanted to mosque to be cleared of cops at once.” Hellman reports, “The edict was seconded by Louis Farrakhan.”

Rangel then issued a veiled threat to Seedman. “That crowd upstairs, they know you’re down here,” Seedman remembers Rangel saying, “I don’t know how long it will be before they come down. If you don’t leave now, I can’t guarantee your personal safety.”

Seedman says he struck a deal with Rangel, with Farrakhan standing at their side: he would release the sixteen suspects to Rangel if the congressman promised to deliver them to the 24th Precinct for questioning later that day. Rangel agreed. The NYPD withdrew from the mosque. But Rangel and the suspects never showed up.The result? No crime scene, no witnesses, no case.

Rangel has denied this version of events, but never offered his own. He did not respond to my interview requests. The killer of Phillip Cardillo walked free. To the police rank and file, it is the greatest scandal in NYPD history—a story of murder, betrayal and cover-up.

No wonder Charlie Rangel doesn’t want to talk about it.

Maybe Adriano Espaillat does.

Read the New York Times story here.

Read the Daily News editorial here.

Read the Fox News story here.

Cardillo Cover-up: Seedman Speaks

Al Seedman is a legendary figure in New York City police lore. An elegantly attired, tough talking, cigar chomping Jew, he served in the NYPD from 1942 to 1972, investigating thousands of murders, including the cases of Joe Colombo, Joey Gallo, and Kitty Genovese. He was named Chief of Detectives in 1971. In 1972, he abruptly resigned, retreating to silence and exile from his beloved police department.

New Information on Cardillo shooting from Al Seedman

In 1974, he published with writer Peter Hellman Chief! Classic Cases from the Files of the Chief of Detectives. It’s a classic indeed, full of interesting detective work, but it is largely silent on the true reason for his resignation from a job he loved at the top of his game.

Planning a re-issue of the book as an Authors Guild Backinprint.com edition, Hellman reached out to Seedman, now 92 and living in Florida, for a new introduction. Hellman got plenty. Seedman was finally ready to talk about the true reason for his resignation: the shooting of Police Office Phillip Cardillo in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque # 7 in Harlem on April 14, 1972, and the subsequent cover-up. Hellman’s recent New York Post story about Seedman and Cardillo is linked below.

To the police rank and file, the Cardillo killing is the greatest scandal in NYPD history—a story of murder, betrayal and cover-up.

Some of the key figures in the scandal are still with us, namely Representative Charles Rangel, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Seedman told Hellman that cops at the mosque were “betrayed” by top NYPD brass colluding with Rangel and Farrakhan. Rangel and Farrakhan quickly arrived at the mosque after the Cardillo shooting. So did Al Seedman and the NYPD cavalry. Outside, a riot was brewing.

The police had sixteen suspects in the basement of the mosque, almost certainly the shooter among them. In the basement, Seedman encountered Rangel and Farrakhan. According to Hellman’s account, Rangel told Seedman that a senior police official “wanted the mosque to be cleared of cops at once. This edict was seconded by Louis Farrakhan.”

Rangel then issued a veiled threat to Seedman. “That crowd upstairs, they know you’re down here,” Seedman remembers Rangel saying, “I don’t know how long it will be before they come down. If you don’t leave now, I can’t guarantee your personal safety.”

Seedman called NYPD Chief Inspector Michael Codd to request back-up. Codd denied the request. “And he made it clear to me,” Seedman told Hellman, “that we should abandon the mosque to minimize the threat of a possible riot. And then he hung up.”

Seedman felt “betrayed.” But he had been given an order: abandon the mosque.

Seedman says he struck a deal with Rangel, with Farrakhan standing at their side: he would release the sixteen suspects to Rangel if the congressman promised to deliver them to the 24th Precinct for questioning later that day. Rangel agreed. The NYPD abandoned the crime scene and the suspects. Rangel and the suspects never showed up at the 24th Precinct.

Thus began a forty-year ordeal seeking justice for Police Officer Phillip Cardillo and answers to the mosque shooting. Was there a conspiracy to lure police officers into an ambush at the mosque? Cardillo and three others were first on the scene, racing to respond to what turned out to be a false “officer in distress” call. Was the FBI somehow involved in a cover-up, perhaps shielding valuable informants or controversial methods from the NYPD? It’s happened before. Think “Whitey Bulger.”

Ray Kelly? He was a young police sergeant at the time, stationed at the hospital where Phillip Cardillo died six days after the shooting. Thirty-four years later, as police commissioner, Kelly re-opened the case. Six years after that, in March of this year, Kelly’s spokesman in effect closed the case, saying the Major Case Squad had turned up “no new information.”

But sources tell me that the FBI was singularly uncooperative with the NYPD’s Cardillo probe, slow-rolling inquiries and providing only heavily redacted documents. Why would they do that? Well, consider the times. 1972 was an era of violent revolutionary action in the United States: the Weathermen, the Black Liberation Army, Vietnam, Watergate, urban bombings, cop killings. The FBI supposedly ceased its COINTELPRO operations and black bags jobs against domestic dissidents in 1971. And we know that the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X, Farrakhan’s predecessor at Mosque #7, were COINTELPRO targets.

There are other possible lines of inquiry as well. Independent investigators have turned up redacted documents indicating the FBI had five or six informants in or around the mosque in April, 1972. What would the unredacted documents tell us? Forty years later, maybe Charles Rangel and Louis Farrakhan have reconsidered their positions on the case. Have they been interviewed? Al Seedman is in ill health and no longer smokes cigars, Peter Hellman reports. Maybe someone should go down to Florida and get him on the record before he goes off to that great cigar store in the sky.

Murder cases famously are never closed, and that goes double for a cop killing. Ray Kelly’s NYPD is not at fault. But after a six-year investigation, if the NYPD has run out of leads, Kelly should do the right thing and call for a federal probe. Let’s see if the Justice Department and Congress can get to the bottom of this. They should start with the FBI’s relationship with the Nation of Islam.

 

Read Peter Hellman’s New York Post story on Al Seedman here.

Read my Daily News op-ed calling for a federal probe of the Cardillo killing here.

Read my New York Post team report on new evidence in the case here.

Remembering Cardillo, Calling for a Federal Probe

Hundreds of motorcycle-riding cops converged on the 28th Precinct in Harlem yesterday to honor the NYPD’s Phillip Cardillo, gunned down forty years ago. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch gave an emotional speech. “Bring those to justice who did this,” he declared. There is “still work to do.”

Meanwhile, the Daily News published my new revelations in the case:

“Was a Cop Killer an FBI Informant?”

Forty years ago this weekend, Police Office Phillip Cardillo was gunned down in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam Mosque No. 7 in Harlem. No one was ever convicted in the case. To the police rank and file, it is the greatest scandal in NYPD history — a story of murder, betrayal and coverup.

On April 14, 1972, Cardillo and three other patrolmen were lured into an apparent ambush in Mosque No. 7 by a fake “officer in distress” call. In the ensuing melee, all four officers were badly beaten and Cardillo was shot. Top NYPD brass quickly ordered a full retreat from the mosque.

The result: no crime scene, no physical evidence, no witnesses.

Cardillo died six days later. Neither the mayor nor the police commissioner attended the funeral. Beat cops regarded it as the ultimate betrayal.

In 1976, a member of Mosque No. 7, Lewis 17X Dupree, went to trial for Cardillo’s murder. He was acquitted. Prosecutors were hampered by the lack of physical evidence and witnesses.

But was that the whole story? According to three investigators who have never given up on the case, as well as documents I obtained, there is some evidence suggesting that Dupree was working for the FBI.

Was the alleged murderer of a New York City police officer an FBI informant?

Did the FBI withhold information from prosecutors to protect their informant?

Read more in the Daily News.

Remember Cardillo

“Remember Cardillo.” It’s a bitter watchword for two generations of the thin blue line in New York City. Forty years ago this Saturday, Police Officer Phillip Cardillo was shot in an apparent ambush at Louis Farrakhan’s Mosque #7 in Harlem; he died six days later. No one was ever convicted in the case. Roadblocks were thrown up at every turn in the investigation. Why? Was it politics? Race? Or did the FBI tank the Cardillo probe to shield high-level confidential informants? In the New York Post today, Phil Messing, Don Kaplan and I report new evidence in the case:

The prime suspect in the 1972 murder of an NYPD cop at a Harlem mosque was under FBI surveillance for at least seven years before the slaying, The Post has learned.

Louis X17 Dupree, who was charged twice in the killing Officer Philip Cardillo, 31, had been in the cross-hairs of at least six federal informants before the mosque shooting, according to bureau files obtained by The Post…

Read more in the New York Post…