|Officials investigate a
Jersey City Police Department cruiser at the scene where an officer was shot and killed while responding
to a call at a 24-hour pharmacy, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Jersey City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — A gunman who killed a rookie
officer responding to a report of an armed robbery at a drugstore early
Sunday never tried to rob the store and instead lay in wait for police,
telling a witness to watch the news because he was "going to be famous,"
Lawrence Campbell shot Officer Melvin Santiago
in the head shortly after he and his partner arrived at the 24-hour
Walgreens at around 4 a.m., Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said. Other
officers returned fire at Campbell, killing him.
Campbell, 27, of Jersey City, was one of three suspects wanted by police for a prior homicide, Fulop
said Campbell was carrying a knife when he walked into Walgreens and
asked for directions to the greeting card aisle. He assaulted an armed
security guard at the store and snatched his gun, Fulop said. He waited
for officers to arrive, then shot Santiago with what police believe was
the guard’s weapon.
"Today was a horrible day for Jersey City," Fulop said.
of officers stood single file at the entrance of the hospital and
saluted as Santiago’s flag-draped body was carried into an ambulance. A
handful of younger officers consoled one another as they walked away.
Santiago, 23, graduated from the police academy in December.
was there when Santiago’s body arrived at the hospital. As Santiago’s
mother identified the body, Fulop said, she "just keep repeating the
badge number and saying that it’s not possible."
Santiago is the
first Jersey City officer killed in the line of duty since Detective
Marc DiNardo died in July 2009 during a raid on an apartment while
searching for suspects in a robbery.
"It is a tragic situation
when any officer is killed in the line of duty," Fulop said. "Melvin was
an officer who represented everything one would want to see in a police
officer. I know the entire city’s thoughts and prayers are with the
Santiago family during this difficult time and we mourn together."
Belviso, who has been delivering newspapers for 10 years, was driving
through the Walgreens parking lot when she said saw a man wearing
burgundy sweatpants and a baseball cap walk out of the store. A police
cruiser pulled up in front of Walgreens, and the suspect began shooting,
the 61-year-old Belviso said.
"We thought he was running, coming toward us," said Belviso, who was riding along with a
friend. "He kept on shooting."
flew through the cruiser’s windshield, 13 in all. The suspect was shot
multiple times, and officers slapped handcuffs on him, Belviso said.
body remained on the ground next to the bullet-riddled cruiser for more
than five hours after the shooting before it was placed in a coroner’s
van and taken away.
Markeisha Marshall, a spokeswoman for
Walgreens, said the company was "deeply regretful" over the officer’s
death and extended its sympathies to his family and friends. The store
has round-the-clock armed security, Marshall noted.
also searching for another man who they believe was involved in the
previous homicide with Campbell, Fulop said. They have been aggressively
seeking Daniel Wilson for the last three days, Fulop said.
The Jersey City Police Benevolent Association said in a statement that their hearts were heavy over
Santiago knew the risks associated with this job, yet he put himself in
front of danger in order to keep Jersey City safe," the association
said. "Words cannot adequately express our feelings about this senseless
The officer’s stepfather, Alex McBride, said Santiago
was "very proud" to be a police officer, following in the footsteps of
his uncle. McBride said he had been in Santiago’s life for 14 years,
noting that his stepson had wanted to be a police officer since playing
the "Call of Duty" video game.
"Melvin was the best kid," he said,
choking up as he sat hunched over on a plastic crate in an alley
outside the family’s apartment. "I watched him graduate from high
school. He joined every sport, everything. He never did no harm to
nobody. And he was full of life."
Gary Nahrwold, 24, recalled his
friend Santiago first saying a decade ago that he wanted to become a
police officer. Nahrwold also hopes to join the force and said he won’t
be discouraged by Santiago’s slaying.
"It just gives me more purpose to do it," he said. "I’m not going to be deterred by some
Associated Press writers Julio Cortez in Jersey City and Ashley Thomas in Philadelphia contributed to
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or