Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Officer, gunman dead in Jersey City shooting

JERSEY CITY - 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 - instead, he lay in wait for police, telling a witness to watch the news because he was "going to be famous," authorities said.

Lawrence Campbell shot Officer Melvin Santiago in the head shortly after he and his partner arrived at the 24-hour Walgreens around 4 a.m., Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said. Other officers returned fire, killing Campbell.

Campbell, 27, of Jersey City, was one of three suspects wanted by police for a prior homicide, Fulop said.

According to Fulop, 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 police to arrive, then shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard's weapon.

"Today was a horrible day for Jersey City," Fulop said.

Dozens of officers stood single file at the entrance of a local 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.

Fulop was there when Santiago's body arrived at the hospital. As Santiago's mother identified the body, Fulop said, she "just kept 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."

Jean Belviso, who has been delivering newspapers for 10 years, was driving through the Walgreens parking lot when she said she 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 man began shooting, Belviso said.

"We thought he was running, coming toward us," said Belviso, who was riding with a friend. "He kept on shooting."

Bullets flew through the cruiser's windshield, 13 in all. The man was shot multiple times, and officers handcuffed him, Belviso said.

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.

Jill Colvin Associated Press
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