The family of a local woman slain in New York City last week is asking that city’s police to focus on investigating her death and not use it as part of an ongoing political war of words with the city’s mayor.
The family of Tessa Majors, a 2019 St. Anne’s-Belfield School graduate in her freshman year at Barnard College, responded to comments from the New York City police union president, who told a talk show host that Majors was killed after she entered Morningside Park to buy marijuana.
The family statement came on the heels of a Twitter exchange between the union and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor and the union have had a long-running political feud over policies and what the union sees as the mayor’s lack of respect for police.
“The remarks by Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins we find deeply inappropriate, as they intentionally or unintentionally direct blame onto Tess, a young woman, for her own murder,” the family said in a statement.
“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,” they wrote.
Majors was stabbed to death Dec. 11 during an apparent robbery attempt while in the park, which is adjacent to Columbia University in upper Manhattan. She made her way out of the park and back to a Columbia University security guard station, and the guard contacted 911, according to authorities.
Columbia and Barnard share a campus and many educational and student life programs.
New York police indicated that four teenage boys apparently tried to rob Majors and that she was stabbed several times. Police on Friday arrested a 13-year-old boy whom they have charged with murder in Majors’ death.
Police have not identified the boy, who is being charged in the city’s juvenile court system. Investigators say they are looking for others involved in the crime.
The comments made by Mullins were part of a verbal salvo aimed at de Blasio’s policies that he said ignore drug enforcement and lead to violence. The comments led to an exchange of tweets between the association and de Blasio.
“We have an 18-year-old college student at one of the most prestigious universities in the country murdered in a park. And what I’m understanding is she was in the park to buy marijuana,” Mullins said on a Sunday morning radio show in New York.
Mullins did not say on what information he based his comments. Friends of Majors reportedly told police she entered the park to go jogging.
“We don’t enforce marijuana laws anymore. We are basically hands off on the enforcement of marijuana,” Mullins said on the talk show. “Here we have a student, murdered, and we have a common denominator of marijuana.”
De Blasio responded to Mullins’ comments in a Sunday tweet calling the union president “heartless.”
“Think of Tessa’s parents, her friends. This is heartless. It’s infuriating,” de Blasio tweeted. “We don’t shame victims in this city.”
The union fired back via Twitter that de Blasio’s policies were what created the situation that led to Majors’ death.
“You’ve weakened the NYPD. This young lady should still be alive,” the association tweeted in response. “Tell the truth, Bill. Tell New Yorkers what really happens in the streets of [New York City]. This girl was an innocent victim. You have created chaos!”
In a Dec. 12 email to The Daily Progress, New York police said officers responded to a 911 phone call around 5:36 p.m. Dec. 11 about a woman who had been assaulted near the park.
“Upon arrival, officers discovered an unconscious 18-year-old female with multiple stab wounds about the body,” a police spokesman said. “Emergency medical services responded and transported the victim to Mount Sinai/St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased.”
Majors’ family said in their statement that their interest is not in politics but in solving her case.
“Our family is interested in knowing what exactly happened to Tess and who committed her murder,” they wrote. “We believe, for the immediate safety of the community and the surrounding schools, that should be everyone’s top priority and we are grateful to the men and women of the NYPD for all of their efforts.”
The family also thanked those who have contacted them to express sorrow and sympathy.
“Our family would like to thank the thousands of strangers who have taken the time to console us, share in our grief, and let us know we are not alone during this terrible time,” they wrote. “Tess would not have been surprised by this beautiful reminder of our shared humanity.”