Deadly Force Justified
On July 13, 2014, Lawrence Campbell (“Campbell”) shot and killed Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago, and was killed in the ensuing exchange of gunfire with other officers at the scene. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office has completed its review in accordance with Attorney General Shooting Directive 2006-5 (“Directive”), and concluded that the officers’ use of deadly force in this case was justifiable under the circumstances and that the undisputed material facts do not require presentation to a Grand Jury to consider possible criminal charges against the officers involved. Consistent with the Directive, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office conducted its investigation independently of the Jersey City Police Department. The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice also reviewed the investigation pursuant to Section 10 of the Directive, and agreed with both the conclusion that the use of deadly force was legally justified and with the decision to forego presentation to the Grand Jury.
On July 13, 2014, at approximately 4:11 a.m., Jersey City Police Officers were dispatched to the Walgreens drug store at Kennedy Boulevard and Communipaw Avenue on a report of an assault on the private security guard with a weapon. Officers Melvin Santiago and his partner arrived first at the scene in a marked unit and were immediately confronted by the decedent, Campbell, who opened fire with a .45 caliber handgun, fatally wounding Officer Santiago as he attempted to exit from the passenger side of his marked patrol vehicle. Almost simultaneously, a second marked unit arrived in the Walgreens parking lot alongside the first unit. Campbell immediately began firing as the unit came to a stop. Officers in the second unit returned fire from inside the vehicle. A third officer arrived on the scene in a marked vehicle and also began to fire from inside his vehicle.
During the exchange of gunfire, Campbell walked toward the rear of the second unit on the passenger side and turned away from the officers, who continued to fire from inside the vehicle. Campbell, apparently struck by one or more rounds, stumbled and fell near the rear of the vehicle. The officers exited the vehicle to attempt to locate Campbell. They observed him still holding his weapon and continued to fire in self-protection. Campbell refused an order to drop the weapon and one of the officers fired two additional rounds. That officer then approached Campbell and kicked the weapon a safe distance away. A large hunting knife was recovered at the scene that witnesses stated Campbell had brandished inside the Walgreens. A quantity of cocaine was also found on Campbell. He was pronounced dead at the scene at approximately 4:16 a.m.
Investigating Detectives from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office’s Homicide Squad later discovered that prior to the shooting Campbell assaulted the private, armed security guard in the Walgreens and took his weapon. He then exited the store and walked into the parking lot where he briefly engaged a motorist in conversation. That motorist, Faiz Hashmi, later provided a statement explaining that Campbell approached his vehicle on the driver’s side and removed a large knife from his rear waistband, which appeared to have blood on it. Hashmi could also see a handgun in Campbell’s waistband. Campbell told Hashmi his name, which Hashmi did not recall, and stated that something bad was going to happen and that he will read his (Campbell’s) name in the news tomorrow. Campbell then walked to the parking lot entrance where he waited for the responding police officers.
Post-mortem examination determined that Campbell was struck eight times, including once in the head and several times to the side and back of the torso. These latter wounds were likely sustained as Campbell turned away from the officers’ fire from the second marked unit. Toxicological examination also detected the presence of alcohol and phencyclidine, commonly known as “PCP” or “angel dust.”
Officer Santiago was transported from the scene to the Jersey City Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 4:39 a.m. from a single gunshot to the head.
In response to Campbell’s unlawful use of deadly force, the undisputed facts establish that the officers used justifiable force in the reasonable belief that such force was immediately necessary to protect themselves and their fellow officers, and to make a lawful arrest for a homicide and to prevent any further commission of a crime threatening bodily harm.
This entire incident has been reviewed by the Director of the Division Criminal Justice, who determined that the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office investigation complied with all relevant provisions of Law Enforcement Directive Number 2006-5 (as amended July 28, 2015).
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