Slain Jersey City Police Officer's Funeral Set for Friday

Melvin Santiago was killed early Sunday morning while responding to an armed robbery call at a 24-7 Walgreen

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    People gathered Monday at the scene where Officer Melvin Santiago was gunned down over the weekend. Brian Thompson reports.

    A rookie Jersey City police officer killed in the line of duty will be laid to rest later this week.

    The funeral for Officer Melvin Santiago is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Aloysius Catholic Church. A wake for the officer will begin Thursday at 1 p.m.

    A procession of Jersey City police officers will walk from the funeral home to the church on the morning of the funeral.

    Santiago was killed early Sunday while responding to an armed robbery call at a 24-7 Walgreens. Police say Lawrence Campbell ambushed the 23-year-old outside of the store. Police returned fire, killing Campbell.

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    A temporary memorial to the slain officer was set up outside the Walgreens where he was killed drew mourners on Monday as the store reopened.

    "We're in a moment of sorrow right now," said Hudson assemblyman and retired officer Charles Mainor.

    "I heard the news this morning and it brought tears to my eyes," truck driver Van Thomas told The Jersey Journal. "I couldn't believe it, I couldn't understand it. This is the type of society we have now with guys whose minds are not right and it's a huge wake-up call for everybody."

    State senator Sandra Cunningham joined city residents in mourning Santiago.

    "We love the fact that he was a young man who took this job because he wanted to protect the citizens of this city," she said. "It breaks my heart that we weren't able to protect him in return."

    Meanwhile, Mayor Steven Fulop lashed out Monday at residents who set up a temporary memorial for the killer in the Jersey City neighborhood where he lived. It included candles and balloons and messages from friends of the man who police said ambushed Santiago.

    Fulop said the memorial and some comments made to the media by Campbell's widow aren't representative of the city as a whole.

    "There are people in every single community who just don't value life and this is highlighted by a situation like this," Fulop told The Associated Press. "There's a lot of reasons for that — some of it is decades of how they perceive police, some it's jobs, some of it's socioeconomics — but at the end of the day we're dealing with it today. When you talk about that situation, yes, it's ignorant, yes it's disgusting, but this represents a lot of the challenges we have."

    Police said they are looking for clues to explain why Campbell, who had prior drug arrests and was released from jail in January, would have committed such a violent act.

    Campbell, who didn't try to rob the store, assaulted the Walgreens' armed security guard and snatched his gun, Fulop said. Then, he approached someone and apologized for his conduct inside the store, then said to watch the news later because he was "going to be famous."

    Campbell then waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard's weapon.

    Other officers returned fire at Campbell, killing him.

    Mainor said he wants to take a closer look at how Campbell was able to grab the security guard's gun and turn it on a cop.

    "We have to look at the type of training that these security officers are getting, number one," he said. "And number two, the type of gun holsters they have."

    Fulop said Campbell was one of three suspects wanted by police for a prior homicide. Another man being sought in that case, 23-year-old city resident Daniel Wilson, was captured Sunday night, officials said.

    Fulop said authorities had been aggressively seeking Wilson for three days.

    Santiago had dreamed of being a police officer since he was a boy, seeking to follow in the footsteps of his uncle.

    When he accomplished his dream in December and joined the Jersey City force, he asked to serve in what the city's public safety director describes as its "toughest district." Seven months after he graduated from the police academy, he was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

    -- Brian Thompson contributed to this report. 

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