A memorial for 23-year-old Jersey City police officer Melvin Santiago stands at the Walgreens where he was fatally shot the previous day, Monday, July 14, 2014, in Jersey City, N.J. Santiago, who joined the force last July and was sworn in December, was fatally shot in the head inside his marked police car as he pulled up to the store.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The mayor lashed out Monday at residents for memorializing a man who killed a police officer over the weekend.
A temporary memorial was on display in the Jersey City neighborhood where Lawrence Campbell lived. It included candles and balloons and messages from friends of the man who police said ambushed 23-year-old officer Melvin Santiago early Sunday at a drugstore.
Campbell’s widow, Angelique Campbell, told News 12 New Jersey she is sorry for Santiago’s family but that her husband should have killed more officers if they were planning to kill him.
On Monday, Mayor Steven Fulop said the memorial and her comments aren’t representative of the city as a whole.
“There are people in every single community who just don’t value life and this is highlighted by a situation like this,” Fulop told The Associated Press. “There’s a lot of reasons for that — some of it is decades of how they perceive police, some it’s jobs, some of it’s socioeconomics — but at the end of the day we’re dealing with it today. When you talk about that situation, yes, it’s ignorant, yes it’s disgusting, but this represents a lot of the challenges we have.”
A temporary memorial to the slain officer, significantly smaller than the one set up for Campbell, outside the Walgreens where he was killed drew mourners on Monday as the store reopened.
“I heard the news this morning and it brought tears to my eyes,” truck driver Van Thomas told The Jersey Journal. “I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t understand it. This is the type of society we have now with guys whose minds are not right and it’s a huge wake-up call for everybody.”
Police said they are looking for clues to explain why Campbell, who had prior drug arrests and was released from jail in January, would have committed such a violent act.
Campbell, who didn’t try to rob the store, assaulted the Walgreens’ armed security guard and snatched his gun, Fulop said. Then, he approached someone and apologized for his conduct inside the store, then said to watch the news later because he was “going to be famous.”
Campbell then waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard’s weapon.
Other officers returned fire at Campbell, killing him.
Fulop said Campbell was one of three suspects wanted by police for a prior homicide. Another man being sought in that case, 23-year-old city resident Daniel Wilson, was captured Sunday night, officials said.
Fulop said authorities had been aggressively seeking Wilson for three days.
Santiago had dreamed of being a police officer since he was a boy, seeking to follow in the footsteps of his uncle.
When he accomplished his dream in December and joined the Jersey City force as a rookie officer, he asked to serve in what the city’s public safety director describes as its “toughest district.” Seven months after he graduated from the police academy, he was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.MORE IN Wire News
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