Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Softball Tourney Held in Memory of Slain Cop

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Softball Tourney Held in Memory of Slain Cop

Article excerpt

Melvin V. Santiago loved playing ball.

Before becoming a Jersey City police officer, he played shortstop in high school, and he was a lifelong Yankees fan for whom Derek Jeter was a role model, his mother, Cathy McBride, said.

So if he had had the chance to play in a benefit softball tournament like the one held Saturday in Woodland Park, chances are he would have been out on the field, playing with his Jersey City teammates, McBride said.

"He would have that smile on his face, and he would definitely want to participate," said McBride, who wears a necklace with a small photograph of her son as a pendant.

But Santiago couldn't be there Saturday, and this benefit was held in his honor. The 23-year-old was killed on July 13, 2014, after he and his partner responded to a call about a man who had grabbed a security guard's gun during a robbery at a 24-hour Walgreens. Police said the gunman waited until the officers arrived before opening fire. He also was killed.

McBride and her 14-year-old son Alex kicked off this first-ever Families Behind the Badge softball tournament. Alex tossed out the first pitch of the day as teams from several law enforcement agencies from North Jersey took part.

Cathy McBride said she was moved when Woodland Park officials called and asked her to be part of the event, a fundraiser for the state Policemen's Benevolent Association's survivors fund for the families of fallen officers.

"All I've wanted to do is keep Melvin's memory alive. This was just such a senseless death," she said, shortly before the opening ceremonies at James Belford Memorial Field.

"It's completely overwhelming and humbling to know that all these people really are touched by Melvin," she added.

The tournament was organized by Woodland Park Councilman Vincent DeCesare and council President Tracy Kallert. It raised about $7,000, Kallert said Saturday night. …

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