The murder of a Barnard College freshman lurched into New York City politics when Mayor Bill di Blasio blasted as “heartless” reports that Tessa Majors was in a city park to buy marijuana when she was fatally stabbed last week.
Di Blasio tweeted his outrage hours before more than 1,000 mourners gathered to honor Majors at a candlelight vigil Sunday night, just steps away from where the 18-year-old Virginian was fatally stabbed in Morningside Park.
“Think of Tessa’s parents, her friends,” di Blasio tweeted. “This is heartless. It’s infuriating. We don’t shame victims in this city.”
The tweet was a response to Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins, who made the marijuana reference while accusing di Blasio’s administration of crippling police efforts with a “hands off” policing policy.
“An 18-year-old college student at one of the most prestigious universities is murdered in a park, and what I’m understanding, she was in the park to buy marijuana,” Mullins said on John Catsimatidis’ Sunday morning radio show. “We have a common denominator of marijuana.”
Teen arrested: 13-year-old boy arrested in stabbing death of New York college student
Mullins’ comment also drew a strong response from Brooklyn Public Defender Scott Hechinger.
“The NYPD is weaponizing Tessa Major’s murder to attack reductions in marijuana enforcement & the prospect of legalization. Never fails,” Hechinger tweeted. “They use every tragedy to push their cynical agenda of more criminalization & greater harshness.”
NYPD did not immediately respond to a request from USA TODAY for comment on the claim. Multiple local media outlets, citing police officials close to the investigation, have reported that authorities are investigating. Majors’ boyfriend told police she was in the park for a jog, law enforcement sources told the Daily News and other outlets.
A 13-year-old boy is in custody in the case. The youth told police he and two friends decided to rob Majors when they saw her jogging down steps in the park, court testimony revealed. Charges were recently dropped against a 14-year-old, but authorities say he remains a suspect. Another teen, possibly the one who actually stabbed Majors, is also sought.
City Councilman Mark Levine, speaking at the vigil, said the tragedy was compounded by the fact that the suspects are still in middle school.
“It only made this even more heartbreaking,” Levin said. “The truth is that families were destroyed on both sides.”
Darcy Cassidy, who attended the vigil, said she can’t help but think of all the positive experiences she has enjoyed since graduating from Barnard two years ago.
“She’s not going to be able to have any of those experiences,” Cassidy said.