The family of a Barnard College freshman fatally stabbed in a New York City park joined Mayor Bill di Blasio on Monday in blasting "irresponsible" comments made by an NYPD union leader linking marijuana to Tessa Majors' death.
The family issued their statement hours after more than 1,000 mourners gathered to honor Majors at a candlelight vigil in Manhattan's Morningside Park, just steps away from where the 18-year-old Virginian was attacked Wednesday.
On Sunday, Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins raises the marijuana issue while accusing di Blasio's administration of adopting a "hands off" policing policy that Mullins suggested was crippling police efforts to combat crime.
"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."
The family described Mullins' remarks as "deeply inappropriate, as they intentionally or unintentionally direct blame onto Tess, a young woman, for her own murder."
The statement said that solving the crime should be everyone's top priority – for the immediate safety of the community and the surrounding schools. It also thanked the "thousands of strangers" who have taken time to console the family.
"We are grateful to the men and women of the NYPD for all of their efforts," the statement added.
Di Blasio blasted Mullins earlier, suggesting his comment was insensitive to the victim's family and friends.
"This is heartless. It’s infuriating. We don’t shame victims in this city," di Blasio said in a Twitter post.
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. Multiple local media outlets, citing police officials close to the investigation, have reported that authorities are investigating the marijuana claim.
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.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tessa Majors murder: Family rips union boss for marijuana comment