Police Officer Melvin Santiago Jersey City Police Department, New Jersey End of Watch: Sunday, July 13, 2014

Police Officer Melvin Santiago | Jersey City Police Department, New JerseyJersey City Police Department, New Jersey

Police Officer Melvin Santiago

Jersey City Police Department, New Jersey
End of Watch: Sunday, July 13, 2014

Biographical Info

Age: 23
Tour of Duty: 6 months
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details

Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: July 13, 2014
Weapon Used: Handgun
Suspect Info: Shot and killed

Agency Contact Information

Chief of Police Robert Cowan
Jersey City Police Department
1 Journal Square Plaza
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Phone: (201) 547-5477

Police Officer Melvin Santiago was shot and killed at 4:09 am when he and his partner responded to a robbery call at a 24-hour pharmacy on the corner of Communipaw Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
A male subject had entered the store and assaulted a private security guard. He severely beat the guard and stole his service weapon before robbing the store. Officer Santiago and his partner had just pulled into the parking lot as the man exited the building and opened fire on them. Officer Santiago was struck in the head before he was able to exit from the patrol car’s passenger seat.
Other responding officers returned fire and killed the subject.
Officer Santiago had graduated from the academy only six months prior to the incident.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A 23-year-old Jersey City police officer was fatally shot while responding to an armed robbery at a 24-hour drug store early Sunday.

Officer Melvin Santiago was shot in the head by a suspect while he was still in his police vehicle as he and his partner responded to a call at a Walgreens Pharmacy on Communipaw Avenue and JFK Boulevard West at about 4.a.m., Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.

“He’s been dying to be a police officer. His uncle was also a police officer; this is what he wanted to do,” his aunt Aggie Hernandez told the Daily News through sobs. “He was just an amazing person. He was our baby.”

The family said he had only been a police officer for a few months and recently graduated from the police academy.

“He was a great guy, he always looked out. Even if you did something bad, he’ll teach you. He taught me a lot,” his cousin Jeramiah Hernandez, 12, told The News. “The last time I spoke with him was after his graduation we went to Appleby’s and we celebrated. That was the last time I saw him.” 

Santiago was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. No other details about the other officer were immediately released.

The robber was shot and killed by a second set of officers responding to the call, Fulop said.

"Today was a horrible day for Jersey City," Fulop said.

Several blocks surrounding the Walgreens were blocked off Sunday morning. A Jersey City Police a Department tent pitched near the entrance contained the body of the suspect, which was removed around 10 a.m.

About a dozen people — believed to be the suspect’s family — were at the Walgreens and rushed to the body when it was being removed.

They were all very emotional and declined to comment.

One young woman being held up by another woman looked like she was about to faint.

Santiago’s car was still on the scene, with 13 bullet holes in the windshield. The vehicle’s back window was blown out.

"My God, it sounded like fireworks,” said a local resident named Mike, who declined to give his last name. “The amount of shots, and so fast, like ‘pow, pow, pow, pow!’ And then I heard the sirens. Those shots went on forever. I really thought it was fireworks.”

Mike said he doesn’t come to the area of the city at night and the businesses are always targets for robberies.

"There’s no big staff in there at that time of the night in the Walgreens,” he said. “And it’s 24 hours. I wouldn’t go in there late at night.”

Mike said he felt terrible for the slain officer.

"That poor cop. He was so young,” he said. “To kill someone for what? A robbery? My god."

Jean Belviso, who has been delivering newspapers for 10 years, was driving through the Walgreens parking lot when she said she saw a man wearing burgundy sweatpants and a baseball cap walk out of Walgreens.

A police cruiser pulled up in front of the store, and the suspect began shooting, Belviso said.

"We thought he was running, coming toward us," said Belviso, who was riding along with a friend. "He kept on shooting."

The driver witnessed bullets fly through the cruiser’s windshield, and other police cars appeared on scene, and officers fired at him, she said.

An armed security guard at the store told authorities that the suspect struck him and took his weapon. Police believe the security guard’s weapon was used in the shooting, Mayor Fulop said.

Santiago is the first Jersey City officer killed in the line of duty since Detective Marc DiNardo was killed in July 2009 during a raid on an apartment searching for suspects in a robbery, officials said.

"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."

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