Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop: Memorial Honoring Cop Killer ‘Disgusting’
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop lashed out at residents memorializing the man who gunned down a rookie cop Sunday.
A temporary memorial was on display Monday in the neighborhood where Lawrence Campbell, 27, lived. It includes candles, ballons and empty liquor bottles. On a pair of white T-shirts, friends have left messages that read “thug in peace” and “see you on the other side,” WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
Police say Campbell ambushed Officer Melvin Santiago, 23, as he and his partner responded to a call at a 24-hour Walgreens on Communipaw Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard around 4 a.m. Sunday.
Campbell’s widow, Angelique Campbell, joined family members at the memorial outside her home.
“I’m not saying what he did was right — or what they claim he did was right,” she told CBS 2’s Diane Macedo. “What I’m saying is he was my husband and he was a human being.”
In a separate interview, 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, Fulop called the memorial and her comments “disgusting” and “ignorant.” He said they aren’t representative of the city as a whole.
Campbell’s cousin, Samika Campbell, told Diamond she couldn’t defend the gunman or his wife, but she appreciated the memorial.
“We’re not supposed to mourn for him because a cop got killed,” she said. “That’s sad. Like we’re not supposed to have feelings and emotions. We lost somebody, too.”
Police say they are looking for clues to explain why Campbell would have committed such a violent act. Sources told Sloan that police are waiting on a toxicology report to determine if Campbell was high on drugs.
Campbell never tried to rob the Walgreens, authorities said. Instead, he walked into the drugstore and asked for directions to the greeting card aisle. He then assaulted an armed security guard at the store and snatched his gun, Fulop said.
According to Fulop, Campbell approached a witness and apologized for his conduct, then said to watch the news later because he was “going to be famous.”
Campbell — who police said had a long rap sheet that included drug charges and was wanted in connection with another homicide — then waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard’s weapon, authorities said. Campbell shot the cop before he even had a chance to get out of his car, investigators said.
Other officers then returned fire at Campbell, killing him.
Meanwhile on Monday, family and friends were remembering Santiago. They said he had dreamed of being a police officer since he was a boy, seeking to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.
When Santiago achieved his dream last December and joined the Jersey City force, he asked to serve in what the city’s public safety director describes as its “toughest district.”
“It was his dream, and he was living his dream,” Santiago’s mother, Cathy McBride said. “At the same time, he didn’t have to die like that. My son was 23 years old, and he was a good boy and he didn’t deserve to get a bullet in his head.”
A memorial was also set up for Santiago in front of the Walgreens. The wife of another cop put candles and his picture there Monday, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“I did it because they put their lives on the line,” said Maria Hernandez, of Jersey City. “I really have appreciation.”
Memorial purple and black bunting was also hung at Santiago’s district station house.
“He was doing a great job,” said James Shea, Jersey City’s director of public safety. “Jersey City resident. Raised here. Went to school and college. Worked beforehand. Takes care of his mother.”
The officer’s stepfather, Alex McBride, said Santiago 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 senseless crimes.”
A wake for Santiago will be held Thursday afternoon. The funeral will be held Friday morning.
The security guard who was attacked has been identified as Pierre Monsanto, Macedo reported.
Neighbors said the 58-year-old pastor was slashed in the jawline area during the attack and that Campbell tried to kill him, too, but that the gun wouldn’t fire. Monsanto is recovering at home, but is expected to be OK, neighbors said.
Dozens of officers stood single file at the entrance of the hospital Sunday 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 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 keep repeating the badge number and saying that it’s not possible.”
“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.”
Campbell’s 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.
Police had been searching for another man, Daniel Wilson, who they believe was involved in the previous homicide with Campbell, Fulop said.
After searching for Wilson for the last three days, Wilson was arrested Sunday night, Fulop said in a statement Monday. Wilson was allegedly armed at the time of his arrest and has been charged with multiple firearms and narcotics offenses, Fulop said.
The investigation into that case is still ongoing.
Meanwhile, the Jersey City Police Benevolent Association said in a statement that the hearts of its members are heavy over Santiago’s death.
“Patrolman 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 tragedy.”
The last murder of a Jersey City police officer was on July 16, 2009, when Officer Marc DiNardo was shot during a stakeout. He died July 21.
Four other officers were shot in that incident, and two suspects were killed.
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