For more than 40 years, since New York City police officer Phillip Cardillo was lured to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam mosque on a faked “officer down” emergency call, then shot and killed, there have been unanswered questions about his tragic death.
Who made the call?
Why was the mosque security absent when the officers first arrived?
Why did the FBI do a separate investigation, then suppress its evidence?
Who fired the shots?
Why did police commanders order officers out of the crime scene and turn it over to the NOI?
Why was Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, at the scene, and why did he fail to follow through on his promise to bring NOI members present at the shooting to the police station?
Now, there is the glimmer of hope that some of those details will be uncovered, as Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, New York City and its police department to force them to make public what they know about the April 14, 1972, homicide.
In its announcement, Judicial Watch said its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit came after the DOJ “failed to adequately search for records” of the homicide.
It previously had requested: “All records concerning the Nation of Islam Mosque #7 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, or the building located at 102 West 116th Street. This request includes, but is not limited to, all informant, wiretap, electronic surveillance, and physical surveillance records relevant to the Nation of Islam Mosque #7, located at 102 West 116th Street, in New York City” for the time period 1970 through 1973.
Judicial Watch alleges the DOJ “violated FOIA by failing and/or refusing to employ search methods reasonably likely to lead to the discovery of records responsive” to its requests.
The city and police “have yet to provide one responsive document.”
Although the case was “reopened” many year ago, Judicial Watch challenges the police claim that it still is an ongoing case.
The basics of the case: “Two policemen, Phillip Cardillo and Vito Navarra, rushed to the address, which was the Muhammed Mosque #7 of the Nation of Islam. Its leader, Louis Farrakhan, had offices on the third floor.”
They were responding to a 10-13, which means an officer is down.
“The mosque doors, usually bolted shut and manned by the Nation of Islam’s own paramilitary force, the Fruit of Islam, were unlocked and unguarded. In the reception area, Cardillo and Navarra encountered six men. Navarra darted up the stairs. Somewhere up on the second floor, he believed, a brother officer was in serious trouble. He was met by 10 men who forced him back down the stairs,” Judicial Watch said.
More officers arrived, a fight resulted and gunfire erupted.
Cardillo died a few days later.
“Officer Cardillo’s murder, over 40 years ago, is relevant today. We need to completely clear this case to properly honor a fallen hero,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “There should be no informal statute of limitations on the death of one of New York’s finest. It is shameful we are being stonewalled by law enforcement bureaucracies on this murder. Rank-and-file NYPD officers want answers, too.”
A previous report by a Judicial Watch investigator raised additional questions: Was the call actually made by the FBI as part of one of its undercover investigations? What was the result of the conference between then-President Richard Nixon and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover on the case?
“Racial tensions were running high. Urban homicide rates had skyrocketed. Radical groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panther Party were trying to stoke a revolutionary fury in the streets with bombings, murder and mayhem. In New York, an ambitious liberal mayor, John Lindsay, was eyeing a run for the presidency,” Judicial Watch’s report said. “In a string of brutal crimes directed against the NYPD, officers Thomas Curry and Nicholas Binetti had been blasted with machine-gun fire as they guarded the home of Manhattan DA Frank Hogan. Officers Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie were murdered on the Lower East Side, shot from behind. Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones were shot to death outside a Harlem housing project. Radicals associated with the violent Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army were fingered for the crimes.”
The mosque shooting report noted that Farrakhan and Rangle both played roles in the case but have “ignored repeated requests … to discuss it.”
“What happened that day at Mosque #7? Why does every attempt to get justice for a slain cop – the initial police investigation, the second police investigation, the secret police investigation, the two trials of an alleged shooter, the grand jury probe by a special prosecutor, the efforts of former detectives and prosecutors – seem to vanish down the memory hole?” the report asks.
Among the revelations that have been unearthed is the fact that when a police commander called from the crime scene for backup for his officers who were facing a dozen or more irate NOI members, his request was denied.
Explains the evaluation: “In the 1960s and 1970s, the FBI was at war with America’s domestic enemies, real and imagined. The FBI’s secret COINTELPRO counter-intelligence program tried to disrupt and discredit many groups, including what FBI documents from the time refer to as ‘black extremists’ – a broad category of targets ranging from the Nation of Islam to the non-violent Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the revolution-preaching Black Panther Party.
“Concern about ‘black extremists’ went right to the top of the U.S. government – to President Nixon and FBI Director Hoover. The COINTELPRO program was unmasked in 1971 and ordered closed down. But Nixon and Hoover directed that another secret program be launched in New York in response to the assassinations of police officers.”