Rev. Al Sharpton will eulogize slain police officer Randolph Holder at his funeral on Wednesday in Far Rockaway, Queens. Holder's father met with Sharpton on Saturday and asked him to speak, according to a Daily News report. Sharpton is a fixture at anti-police brutality marches, and the pastor of the church where the funeral is set to be held saw no contradiction between that and honoring Holder.
"The city needs to be unified," Rev. Les Mullings, of the Far Rockaway Community Church of the Nazarene, told the News. "They didn't want his death to be in vain."
Mullings said Holder was a proponent of community policing and hopes his death will serve as a "catalyst for unification."
Holder and partner Omar Wallace were in plainclothes, searching for an armed man on a stolen bicycle following a shootout near the East River Houses on Tuesday night, when they encountered Tyrone Howard on a bike on the waterfront promenade. He allegedly shot Holder in the head without warning. Wallace returned fire, hitting Howard in the rear, and Wallace says Howard fled on foot, getting several blocks before he was apprehended.
Yesterday, police recovered a .40-caliber Glock handgun from the Harlem River that they believe Howard threw as he ran.
Sharpton is one of many prominent figures claiming that lax bail and sentencing are to blame for Howard being on the street, and ultimately for Holder's killing. That argument ignores basic tenets of the criminal justice system and details of Howard's case, but in any event, Sharpton's support for it did not endear him to frequent foe and Patrolmen's Benevolent Association head Pat Lynch, who called him "one of the chief extremists fanning the flames of anti-police sentiment for his own gain."
The activist reverend and cable news commentator has been widely criticized outside of police circles for his perceived opportunism, including by family members of fatal police shooting victim Akai Gurley, who said Sharpton billed himself as Gurley's eulogist without consulting key loved ones, and millennial Black Lives Matter protesters, who say his National Action Network is too top-down and works closely with politicians while seeking to edge out grassroots activists.
On Saturday, Sharpton paid tribute to Holder at a weekly NAN rally.
"When we find a police officer that's trying to protect us and serve our community and actually puts their lives on the line to do that, we stand up for those police officers," he said.
"We are not anti-police. We are anti-police-brutality," he added.
Holder's fiancee Mary Muhammad told reporters she hopes to create a foundation in his honor to donate equipment to police in his native Guyana.
"I just wish that I had more time, but I'm thankful for the time that I did have with him," Muhammad told CBS2. "I will always love him."
Holder's father and grandfather were police officers in Guyana. Friends and family members joined with fellow Guyanese New Yorkers for one of several planned memorial services at a Lutheran church in Flatbush on Sunday. As many as 30,000 cops from around the country are expected to attend Holder's funeral on Wednesday. His body will then be flown to be buried in a family plot in Georgetown, Guyana.