JERSEY CITY - Family and friends say Melvin Santiago had dreamed of being a police officer since he was a boy, seeking to follow in his uncle's footsteps.
When Santiago accomplished his dream last December and joined the Jersey City force as a rookie officer, he asked to serve in the city's toughest district. Seven months after he graduated from the academy, the 23-year-old was killed in the line of duty after a gunman shot him in the head.
Santiago died early Sunday, after he and other officers responded to a report of a robbery at a 24-hour drugstore.
The suspect, identified by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop as 27-year-old Lawrence Campbell, entered the store with a knife. Campbell allegedly assaulted an armed security guard and took his gun. While someone in the store called police, the suspect allegedly waited outside for police to arrive.
Campbell never tried to rob the store, according to the mayor’s office. Instead, he told a witness to watch the news because he was "going to be famous." Campbell waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago. Officers returned fire at Campbell, killing him.
In a statement, Fulop said Santiago was "an officer who represented everything one would want to see in a police officer." He added, "I know the entire city's thoughts and prayers are with the Santiago family at this time, and we mourn together."