Funeral set for police officer fatally shot in Jersey City; memorial for gunman removed

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Darla Miles on a community mourning the loss of a young police officer. (WABC)

Funeral services are scheduled for later this week for officer Melvin Santiago, who was shot early Sunday after he and other officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at a 24-hour drugstore.

A wake will be held Thursday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the McLaughlin Funeral Home in Jersey City.

Santiago will be laid to rest Friday at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington after an 11 a.m. service at St. Aloysius Church on West Side Avenue.

The gunman who killed Santiago, who was responding to a report of an armed robbery at a drugstore, 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," authorities said.

Lawrence Campbell shot 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 at Campbell, killing him.

A memorial to Campbell has now been removed. Fulop says he ordered the city to take down the memorial on Monday night.

Fulop says he won't let the residents who put up the mural pretend they express the views of the entire city.

The memorial had included candles, balloons, empty liquor bottles and message of love from friends scrawled on T-shirts taped to a brick wall.

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

Police have arrested another of the suspects, 23-year-old Daniel Wilson. At the time of his arrest, he was armed. Authorities charged him with multiple firearms and narcotics offenses, authorities say.

Black and purple bunting, symbols of grief, have been hung outside the West district police precinct, and flowers and candles were placed outside the drug store where Santiago was shot and killed early Sunday. Governor Chris Christie ordered all State buildings to fly at half-staff on Wednesday to honor Officer Santiago.

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.

According to Fulop, Campbell approached a witness and apologized for his conduct, then waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard's weapon.

The officer's mother, Cathy McBride, said she is disgusted by how her son was targeted because he was a cop and didn't have a chance to defend himself.

"He specifically said 'watch I'm going to be famous' after he stole the gun," she said. "And he waited and squatted until my son pulled up, and he shot my son through the glass without my son knowing what him."

In her darkest hour, McBridce honored her son's wishes. So in death, Santiago will continue to give to others, donating his heart, skin tissue and eyes.

Dozens 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.

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."

Eyewitness News talked to the officer's step-dad, who knew Santiago since he was 9 years old. He says there was still not enough time.

"I love him, he's always gonna be in my heart, and I hope we meet again in heaven," said Alex McBride.

Officials in Jersey City described the young officer as a driven man who was serious about his job in a district filled with challenges.

"By all accounts, he was enthusiastic, motivated and wanted to be in the West District because he was a true police officer and wanted to be a part of that culture in every single way," Fulop said.

Santiago had asked to be assigned to the West district, the most crime-ridden section of the city.

"He loved the graveyard shift, and he loved being a police officer," McBride said. "He followed in his uncle's footsteps."

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.

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shootingnew jersey newspolice officer killedJersey City
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