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Officer Melvin Santiago murder: Fallen officer's death has surprising result

Jersey City Police Department members salute the ambulance removing slain officer Melvin Santiago.
Jersey City Police Department members salute the ambulance removing slain officer Melvin Santiago.
CBS New York

When a man seeking fame through criminal activities chose to shoot and kill Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago, he didn't kill the dream that drove the young 23-year-old cop. Instead, the Associated Press reported on July 14 that he inspired another, according to KTAB: Santiago's friend Gary Nahrwold, a 24-year-old who now hopes to join the force because he says he will not "be deterred by some senseless crime."

Honoring the memory of a fallen officer by picking up his mantel is one way to pay your respects and show support to the men who wear the badge. But it is not a duty to enter into lightly, and there are other less dangerous ways to honor an officer killed in the line of duty.

For example, at the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) website stories about officer shootings populate the pages, including the story of Officer Santiago's shooting. But the site also provides civilians and other officers a variety of ways they can pay tribute to the fallen law enforcement hero or his family, like something as simple as putting their free downloadable support decal on your vehicle, or signing letters on the ODMP website in support of making all cop killers have to serve their full sentences, once convicted. And there is also the section that allows for comments of condolence, labeled on the site as "reflections."

The 169 reflections posted as of July 14 for police officer Santiago include the following from Sgt. Scott Bodah of the Syracuse, New York Police Department:

To the family, friends and co-workers of Officer Melvin Santiago-my heartfelt empathy and sympathy to you. Police work--such a dangerous job. Your loved one faced that danger courageously and will be forever honored in our profession. I will be praying for you."

Michael Cubberly, a retired Hudson County Department of Corrections employee had this to say:

My wife and I have known Melvin for about 5-6 years. Co-workers from his previous employer said being a P.O. for JC was his dream. He was THE nicest person, in a long time, that I have had the pleasure of meeting. He was always gracious and ecstatic when I would give him one of my Honor Legion courtesy cards. JC is short one cop's cop tonight. He was my friend, my BROTHER, my HERO. Condolences to your Immediate family as well as the Jersey City Police Department family."

Officer Santiago's long list of reflections will serve to comfort his grieving family during this terrible tragic time. And Santiago's family may one day be comforted by knowing that they will not have to endure a future in which their son or loved one's killer comes up for parole, as the shooting suspect in the case, 27-year-old Lawrence Campbell, was shot and killed at the scene by responding officers. But other families of officers killed in the line of duty do have to face that possibility, which is why ODMP has their "no parole for cop killers" letters they send out to parole boards.

The letters are made available for free on the ODMP website and are already written out for anyone who is willing to show their support to fallen officers in this way. The Officer Down site generates the letters based upon upcoming cop killer parole hearings across the nation. For example, in July there are five convicted killers up for parole for officer slayings that took place in California, North Carolina, New York and Texas in the past.

This law enforcement supporting site allows for you to add any personal comments to the "no parole" letter that you wish to make. But it is not required that you add anything to it in order to show support by sending it. Just type your full name (and the name of the state in which you live) into the appropriate boxes at the close of the preformatted letter found on their website. Then print it out, and sign and mail it.

And don't bother looking up the address of where to send it, as the site already has it on each individual letter for you, based upon the location of the parole board hearing for the convicted criminal who shot and killed a police officer.

In July 2014, three police officers have given their lives in the line of duty in America, according to ODMP: Jersey City Police Officer Melvin Santiago, Gary Police Department Patrolman Jeffrey Bradey Westerfield of Indiana, and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Perry Renn, also of Indiana.

Westerfield, like Santiago, was ambushed the night of his death. In Westerfield's case, however, it was his birthday and he had responded to a call earlier that night, in the same vicinity in which he was later shot and killed. He had been with the force for 19 years and left behind four daughters. Officer Santiago was slain while responding to a robbery in progress at a Walgreens Pharmacy Store. He had only been with the force for six months of active duty.

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