JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) – Dozens of law enforcement officers, friends and family of Jersey City Officer Melvin Santiago paid their respects to the rookie police officer who was killed during an ambush last weekend.
Several hundred people filed in and out of a Jersey City funeral home to honor the officer who requested an assignment in one of the toughest districts in New Jersey’s second largest city and ended up getting gunned down by a man trying to gain notoriety. Santiago was remembered as a dedicated, diligent member of the force.
The 23-year-old Santiago was killed while responding to reports of an armed robbery early Sunday at a 24-hour drugstore in Jersey City. He had been on the force for less than a year, fulfilling what family members had said was his lifelong dream to be a police officer.
Authorities say the man who shot Santiago had grabbed a security guard's gun and waited for police to arrive before opening fire. Santiago's killer, 27-year-old Lawrence Campbell, was fatally shot when police returned fire early Sunday in front of a 24-hour drug store.
Santiago was posthumously promoted to detective and awarded the police department's medal of honor.
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Santiago’s death underscores the peril faced by officers everywhere, whether in gritty urban areas or sleepy suburban towns.
Friends and family said the 23-year-old Santiago had wanted to be a police officer since he was a youth. He had been on the job less than a year before his death.
Police officers "face dangers every single day," Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said Thursday. "We saw what happened in Jersey City…Danger faces these police officers at any moment."
A sidewalk memorial to Campbell near his home prompted denunciations by Mayor Steven Fulop and Police Director James Shea. Fulop ordered the memorial taken down this week.