Society

Sharpton Withdraws As Eulogist At Slain NYPD Officer's Funeral

Police officers wait in line to enter a cathedral during the wake for slain NYPD officer Randolph Holder. Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Hundreds of mourners paid their respects on Oct. 27 to slain New York City Police Officer Randolph Holder, while the man accused of killing him sat in handcuffs inside a Manhattan courthouse as a grand jury indicted him for murder.

A line of officers four blocks long formed at midday outside the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in the city's borough of Queens to view Holder's body. Police Commissioner William Bratton was there, and Mayor Bill de Blasio was expected to arrive later on Oct. 27.

Holder, 33, was shot to death on Oct. 20 in the city's East Harlem neighborhood, becoming the fourth officer killed in the line of duty in the last year. Tyrone Howard, 30, is accused of his murder.

Howard was at a Manhattan courthouse on Oct. 27 but did not enter the courtroom after his defense attorney waived his appearance.

Prosecutors filed a notice of indictment in court. Howard will be formally arraigned on Nov. 24.

"He should not be prejudged," his lawyer, Michael Hurwitz, told reporters. "He denies the allegations."

Holder's funeral on Oct. 28 is expected to draw more than 1,000 police officers.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist and frequent critic of the NYPD, said on Oct. 27 that he would not deliver the eulogy at Holder's funeral, citing news reports in which his planned appearance had been criticized. Sharpton said over the weekend that he had been invited to the funeral by Holder's father, a former police officer in his native Guyana.

Sharpton's announcement came hours after Holder's fiancee was quoted in the New York Post as saying the officer disliked Sharpton. In the Post story, Holder's fiancee, Mary Muhammad, was quoted as saying on Oct. 26, "He didn't like [Sharpton]. He wasn't a fan. So I don't know why [Sharpton] is speaking."

Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, told the New York Daily News on Oct. 25 that inviting Sharpton was "an ironic twist."

"Maybe the family doesn't understand his history with the NYPD," Mullins said.

Sharpton said he was concerned that union leaders would turn the funeral into "some kind of confrontation."

Union spokesman Jordan Bieber said on Oct. 27 that Mullins was only expressing surprise and that the union would never disrupt the funeral.

"This is one of our fallen brothers, and our focus is on Officer Holder and his family," he said.

Sharpton's reversal echoed a situation in 2014 when he was initially expected to eulogize Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man killed in November by a police officer. He subsequently said he would not attend, citing a "dispute" among members of Gurley's family after reports that Gurley's mother did not want him there.

(By Joseph Ax and Shannon Stapleton; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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