JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jersey City has dedicated its newest police station in memory of a rookie officer who was gunned down in the line of duty.

The new West District station on Jackson Avenue has been named for 23-year-old Officer Melvin Santiago, one year after he was killed in what authorities described as an ambush.

Santiago’s family was on hand for the ceremony with heavy hearts, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported. His mother, Cathy McBride, was  honored but still overwhelmed with sadness.

“The compassion, the support they have shown my family this past year is overwhelming and truly humbling,” she said. “I wish he was here. I wish his name wasn’t on the facility. I wish he was a part of the facility.”

Mayor Steven Fulop called it bitter-sweet.

“We gather here today not just to mark the dedication, but we come together in a moment of reflection,” Fulop said.

Jersey City Police Chief Philip Zacche held back tears for the family, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

“I do hope this building brings us some peace, some closure and some hope for the future,” he said.

Santiago died while responding to an armed robbery call at a 24-hour Walgreens.

But authorities said the suspect, 27-year-old Lawrence Campbell, never tried to rob the Walgreens. He allegedly grabbed a security guard’s gun and waited for police to arrive.

He then apologized to a customer for his conduct and told her to watch the news because he was going to be famous, Fulop said at the time of incident.

Minutes later when Santiago and his partner pulled into the parking lot, Campbell opened fire, killing the rookie cop before he even got the chance to get out of the car. Other officers returned fire, killing Campbell.

“They say you know what you sign up for when you’re a police officer,” McBride said. “No police officer signs up to be ambushed and executed. That does not come with the job.”

Santiago had requested to work in the city’s western section, where much of Jersey City’s violent crime is concentrated.

“It was here in the West District that Melvin lived and chose to serve as a Jersey City police officer fulfilling his life long dream,” Fulop said.

Santiago’s uncle Frank is a retired Jersey City police and was the reason Santiago became a cop.

“I’m sure it sounds like a cliche, but if I could switch places with the kid, I would,” he told 1010 WINS’ Rebecca Granet.

A life-sized statue of the fallen officer also sits in the center of the police station — the first one built in more than 50 years in the city.

Santiago was promoted posthumously to the rank of detective and awarded the police department’s medal of honor.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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