2 NJ police deaths reflect job’s inherent peril
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Christopher Goodell served in the kind of community where violent crime is something seen on the evening news. Melvin Santiago volunteered to be assigned to the toughest neighborhood in New Jersey’s second-largest city.
Their deaths this week underscored the peril faced by officers everywhere, whether in gritty urban areas or sleepy suburban towns.
Goodell was monitoring Route 17 for speeders not far south of the New York state border in Waldwick when his unmarked car was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler early Thursday. Four days earlier and about 25 miles away in Jersey City, Santiago was shot and killed in what authorities have described as an ambush by a man who told a witness moments before the shooting started to watch the evening news because he was “going to be famous.”
Santiago will be laid to rest Friday after funeral services in Jersey City. Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to join mourners.
On Thursday, hundreds of officers from around the region paid their respects at a wake, joined by an equal number of members of the public who waited in line throughout the afternoon. Santiago was posthumously promoted to detective and awarded the police department’s medal of honor.
Friends and family said the 23-year-old Santiago had wanted to be a police officer since he was a youth. He had been on the job less than a year before his death.
Goodell, 32, grew up in Waldwick, the type of community where, several residents said Thursday, people often return after graduating from college and people who move there as adults wind up staying. He had served in the Marine Corps and had been on the police force for five years, and had been active in programs at the local high school.
Police officers “face dangers every single day,” Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said Thursday. “We saw what happened in Jersey City. We saw what happened to a Bergen County police officer a couple of months ago. Danger faces these police officers at any moment.”
Santiago’s killer, 27-year-old Lawrence Campbell, was fatally shot when police returned fire early Sunday in front of a 24-hour drug store. A sidewalk memorial to Campbell near his home prompted denunciations by Mayor Steven Fulop and Police Director James Shea. Fulop ordered the memorial taken down this week.
Ryon Cumberbatch, of New York, the driver of the truck that struck Goodell’s car, was charged with vehicular homicide Thursday and was being held on $25,000 bail. Molinelli said there was no evidence Cumberbatch tried to stop before the collision.