Jersey City gunman allegedly staged robbery to lure police

Officer Melvin Santiago was shot and killed while responding to an armed robbery call at a Jersey City Walgreens early Sunday morning. The assailant was subsequently killed by swat teams, police say.

By , Associated Press

  • close
    Officer Melvin Santiago, shown in this photo provided by the Jersey City Mayor's office, was shot in the head while still in his police vehicle as he and his partner responded to an armed robbery call at a Walgreens Pharmacy at about 4 am, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.
    View Caption

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," authorities said.

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

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

Recommended: How much do you know about the Second Amendment? A quiz.

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 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 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."

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 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."

Bullets flew through the cruiser's windshield, 13 in all. The suspect was shot multiple times, and officers slapped handcuffs on him, Belviso said.

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.

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.

The Jersey City Police Benevolent Association said in a statement that their hearts were 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."

___

Associated Press writers Julio Cortez in Jersey City and Ashley Thomas in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

Share this story:
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...