July 13, 2014 at 6:19 pm

N.J. mayor: Cop killer said he was 'going to be famous'

Thirteen bullets flew through the cruiser's windshield, killing the officer inside early Sunday outside a 24-hour pharmacy in Jersey City, N.J. (Julio Cortez / AP)

Jersey City, N.J. — A gunman who killed a rookie officer responding to a report of an armed robbery at a drugstore early Sunday never tried to rob the store and instead lay in wait for police, telling a witness to watch the news because he was “going to be famous,” authorities said.

Lawrence Campbell shot Officer Melvin Santiago in the head shortly after he and his partner arrived at the 24-hour Walgreens at around 4 a.m., Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said. Other officers returned fire at Campbell, killing him.

Campbell, 27, of Jersey City, was one of three suspects wanted by police for a prior homicide, Fulop said.

Fulop said Campbell was carrying a knife when he walked into Walgreens and asked for directions to the greeting card aisle. He assaulted an armed security guard at the store and snatched his gun, Fulop said.

According to Fulop, Campbell approached a witness and apologized for his conduct, then said to watch the news later because he was “going to be famous,” then waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard’s weapon.

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

As Santiago’s mother identified the body, Fulop said, she “just keep repeating the badge number and saying that it’s not possible.”

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

Bullets flew through the cruiser’s windshield, 13 in all. The suspect was shot multiple times, and officers slapped handcuffs on him, Belviso said.

The officer’s stepfather, Alex McBride, said Santiago was “very proud” to be a police officer, following in the footsteps of his uncle.

“Melvin was the best kid,” he said, choking up as he sat hunched over on a plastic crate in an alley outside the family’s apartment. “He never did no harm to nobody. And he was full of life.”