Family members of a woman who was stabbed in Manhattan’s Morningside Park were offended by a police union official’s comments on Sunday that Tessa Majors’ death had to do with cannabis. Many see the remarks as thinly veiled digs at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policing priorities.
“She was in the park to buy marijuana,” said the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association Ed Mullins on a morning talk radio show. “And you think about that, we don’t enforce marijuana laws anymore. We’re basically hands-off on the enforcement of marijuana.”
The comments were seen as criticism of Mayor de Blasio’s relaxation of marijuana policing norms. Apparently, the police rep thinks that the 18-year-old would still be alive today if marijuana deals were being more stringently policed. His remarks join a chorus that has arisen since the murder that it is a result of the NYC mayor’s de-escalation of cannabis-related policing tactics.
In May, de Blasio announced an “overhaul and reform” of police policy that guided law enforcement to no longer arrest people caught smoking cannabis.
New York state narrowly missed legalizing adult use marijuana this year after lawmakers were unable to agree on the details of regulation legislation. Nonetheless, cannabis was decriminalized in the state, with penalties for small time possession reduced to those of a parking violation.
Majors’ boyfriend told the police that the Barnard College student had been running in the park at 5:30 p.m. when she attacked. Her family did not take kindly to the assertion that she had been in the process of buying cannabis when she lost her life.
In a statement, the family called Mullins’ words “deeply inappropriate, as they intentionally or unintentionally direct blame onto Tess, a young woman, for her own murder.”
“’We would ask Mr Mullins not to engage in such irresponsible public speculation, just as the NYPD asked our family not to comment as it conducts the investigation,” the statement continued. “Our family is interested in knowing what exactly happened to Tess and who committed her murder.”
Mayor de Blasio also weighed in on the remarks, calling them “victim shaming.”
“This is heartless,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “It’s infuriating. We don’t shame victims in this city.”
Days after his talk radio pronouncement, Mullins walked back his statements somewhat. “This student Tess Majors is clearly a victim of a robbery homicide,” he said. “She went to a prestigious school. Her family is suffering. But in many ways, I blame the mayor for trying to slant this in a different direction.”
Majors was killed last Wednesday. The suspects in the case are a trio of young boys aged 13 to 14 years old. One has allegedly confessed to the attack, though he placed the blame for the actual stabbing on the other individuals.
According to the alleged confession, the three went to the park with the intent to rob people. They grabbed Majors, told her to give them her money, and the woman put up a fight. The boy who told the police his story said the other two stabbed her.
A memorial service for Majors was held this week in Morningside Park close to where she was attacked that was attended by over 1,000 mourners. There, city councilperson Mark Levine commented on the tragedy of a crime allegedly committed by middle school students.
“It only made this even more heartbreaking,” said the politician. “The truth is that families were destroyed on both sides.”