A PUBLISHER WRITES: Loved ones of the maniac who shot and killed a 23-year-old rookie Jersey City police officer were free to put a temporary memorial in his neighborhood — the same as any of us were free smash it to bits. Which is apparently what happened.
Sometime overnight, “someone” removed the candles, balloons and empty whiskey bottles arranged in memory of the coward who killed an innocent public servant.
As it should be.
I’m one to always give a pass for ignorance, in the hope that enlightenment might follow. I do all in my power to try and explain the often horrible — and in this case, unfathomable — consequences of mental illness.
Not this time.
It’s more than ignorance that led the gunman’s widow to say that her homicidal husband should have taken out more police officers if they were planning to kill him.
Erecting a memorial — in a place where young children could see it — was more than a simple matter of not being raised right, as my mom used to say.
Jersey City was my mother’s hometown. A Czechoslovakian immigrant who was 10 when she landed on Ellis Island, Regina Vasil took tremendous pride in it. That her son attended St. Peter’s College there meant a great deal to her. She continued to work near Journal Square decades after moving further north in Hudson.
Visiting hours for Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago ( photo, top ) are from 1 – 9 p.m. Thursday at the McLaughlin Funeral Home, 625 Pavonia Ave., Jersey City. A funeral Mass is set for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Aloysius Church, 691 Westside Ave., Jersey City.
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The outright thumb in the eye of her city that the memorial represents would have angered Mom nearly as much as the senseless slaying of Officer Melvin Santiago early Sunday outside a drugstore near my grandmother’s old apartment would have saddened her.
She might have even taken a baseball bat to those bottles.
“What kind of society do we live in where memorializing a violent murderer is acceptable?” Jersey City’s two PBAs said in a joint statement.
“Officer Santiago was just embarking on his lifelong dream to be a police officer and change things for the better in Jersey City,” said Danielle Lembo, who knows the grieving family. Campbell, meanwhile, “was arrested several times on drug charges and wanted in another murder,” she wrote.
“Cowardice is what it takes to kill people without giving them a fighting chance,” added Susan Reynolds Makky, “and a coward is what that cop killer is, period.”
Not that you need to be from the county seat to feel such intense emotions.
Seems one person from there didn’t feel as strongly.
I took Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop to task in this spot yesterday for giving the cowardly killer’s loved ones the easy out.
“There are people in every single community who just don’t value life and this is highlighted by a situation like this,” he told The Associated Press . “There’s a lot of reasons for that — some of it is decades of how they perceive police, some it’s jobs, some of it’s socioeconomics.
“When you talk about that situation, yes, it’s ignorant, yes it’s disgusting,” Fulop said. “But this represents a lot of the challenges we have.”
The memory of a young public servant demands more than that, I told the mayor. So does his family and every member of the Thin Blue Line.
So does Jersey City.
I said what the mayor wouldn’t: Shame on these people. Shame on the environment that allows this to happen.
And shame on suspended News 12 reporter Sean Bergin for saying the sole reason for anti-police hatred is “young black men growing up without fathers.”
There are a lot of reasons — just like there are a lot of good, solid young men who’ve grown up just fine with only our moms. Skin color has absolutely nothing to do with it. I’ve lived in Jersey City, Union City, North Bergen and West New York, as well as Trenton, Stamford and Yonkers. I’ve worked the streets of Perth Amboy and Passaic and Paterson. Ignorance doesn’t know color. Nor does hatred of our valiant public servants.
Fulop didn’t immediately raise to the defense of the city that means so much to so many of us, after taking officer last year on a promise of making Jersey City safer. All we’ve seen since then are more bodies falling, more families shattered, while he focused on his tony waterfront.
Compared to what Mom would have said, I was putting it nicely.
This morning, Fulop claimed credit for having the memorial moved.
“I am not going to let a few residents pretend like they express the views of a great city like Jersey City,” he said through a spokesperson.
If you did, I thank you, mayor — not just for me but for so many others, here and gone.
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- Although a street shrine for the killer of 23-year-old rookie Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago was finally torn down last night, a virtual one has sprung up in its place. READ MORE….
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