JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — A day after a rookie police officer was gunned down in an ambush, mourners came to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial with candles, balloons, empty liquor bottles and messages of love from friends scrawled on T-shirts taped to a brick wall — to his killer.
"Rest easy," ''Thug in peace" and "See u on the other side" were among the things friends wrote to Lawrence Campbell, who police say ambushed Officer Melvin Santiago early Sunday as he responded to an armed robbery call at a 24/7 pharmacy. Other officers returned fire, killing Campbell.
Visitors to the memorial would not give their names to The Associated Press. But Barbara Jones, Campbell's neighbor, told The Jersey Journal that the Campbell she knew was nothing like the man city officials say was lying in wait for officers to arrive before opening fire.
"He was a good man. He looked out for everybody on the block," Jones told the newspaper.
Angelique Campbell, Campbell's widow, told News 12 New Jersey on Sunday that she was sorry for Santiago's family but that her husband should have killed more officers if they were planning to kill him. She later apologized for the comments.
City officials lashed out that some residents were grieving for the suspect instead of the rookie officer.
Mayor Steven Fulop called Angelique Campbell's comments "ignorant" and "disgusting." Police Director James Shea said they weren't representative of the city or even of Campbell's neighborhood in southwest Jersey City, where the majority of shootings in the city take place and where distrust of police is as much a staple as boarded-up houses and groups of young men hanging out on street corners at midday.
"I firmly believe that the people who made the ignorant comments on the TV and the people who put up a memorial to a cowardly murderer who shot somebody in the head without giving him a chance are not representative of the people who live up there," Shea said.
"We know that because our officers interact with them every day. There is a minority of criminals that makes their job dangerous, but there is a large population up there that they are proud to serve."
A temporary memorial to the slain officer — significantly smaller than the one for Campbell — was set up outside the Walgreens where he was killed, drawing mourners as the store reopened Monday.