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Honors finally come to a fallen NYPD cop, 43 years after his death in the line of duty

New York Police Officer Phillip Cardillo, seen here

New York Police Officer Phillip Cardillo, seen here in an undated photo, was shot at a Harlem mosque on April 14, 1972. Credit: TODD CARDILLO

It took more than four decades, but slain NYPD Officer Phillip Cardillo finally got his due Tuesday.

In a tearful tribute tinged with a sense of business unfinished, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the NYPD was making up for what it failed to give Cardillo after he was shot to death on April 14, 1972 -- an honorable send-off.

"Today we pay homage to patrolman Phillip Cardillo, who gave his all and kept his promise while we did not keep ours," Bratton said at the NYPD's Harbor Unit, where a new patrol boat was dedicated to Cardillo.

Unlike today, when politicians and police brass routinely attend cop funerals, Cardillo's death was ignored. Neither then-Mayor John Lindsay nor Patrick Murphy, the police commissioner at the time, attended his funeral, a fact that still irks Bratton.

"It's nothing short of shameful," Bratton told Cardillo's family, NYPD officials and current and retired police officers. He recounted the events leading up to Cardillo's death by reading aloud dispatches from the officer's last call. Bratton also told those gathered that if approved, a street sign may soon be emblazoned with the officer's name in front of the new NYPD Police Academy in College Point.

"Thousands of police will walk that street before going into the academy," Bratton said. "It's unfortunate that it's taken 43 years."

Cardillo and his partner, Vito Navarra, were responding to a call of an officer in need of assistance inside Nation of Islam mosque No. 7 on 116th Street.

When they entered the building, the officers were attacked and Cardillo was shot. He died from his injuries six days later.

Retired NYPD Officer Rudy Andre who came upon the gravely wounded Cardillo, said the lasting image of the bleeding patrolman is seared in his mind.

"We couldn't get in the mosque," Andre said, recalling efforts by officers. "I saw from the window people from the mosque beating police officers. It was vicious."

Police said officers eventually opened the dead-bolted door but Cardillo lay gravely wounded

Andre then chased a man suspected in the shooting, who was taken into custody and charged with Cardillo's killing. The man, Louis 17X Dupree, was later acquitted.

Bratton said that as a tribute to Cardillo, future officers killed in the line of duty will never have their sacrifice ignored.

"I make a promise to officers on behalf of the Department," Bratton said during the ceremony, "that if they should be injured or die in the line of duty, that we will not forget."

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