By Karen Zautyk
How low can you go? Not much lower than what one man is accused of doing in the wake of the murder of Jersey City Detective Melvin Santiago. Namely, falsely soliciting donations for the officer’s grieving family.
Santiago, a 23-year-old rookie, was ambushed and fatally shot, in cold blood, July 13 after responding to a report of an armed robbery at a city Walgreens. He was posthumously promoted to detective, and on July 18 was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington.
On Tuesday, July 29, Kearny police began receiving complaints about a man visiting businesses on the 700 block of Kearny Ave. to solicit donations for Santiago’s family. The initial search for him was fruitless, but he returned to town the following day.
At 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, Officer John Fabula spotted Darnell Campbell, 41, of Jersey City, at Kearny and Columbia Aves. Police said he was holding a donations container.
Under questioning by Fabula, Campbell reportedly claimed to be working for the Boys & Girls Club of Jersey City and said he was collecting money for a 5-year-old child who had been shot in that city.
Fabula contacted the club and was told that it does not solicit contributions in that manner. Police said the club representative also reported that it had received similar inquiries from Montclair.
Campbell was arrested and charged with wrongful impersonation and theft by deception. Police said he also had an outstanding warrant from East Brunswick. He was remanded to the Hudson County Jail on $1,000 bail, with no 10% option.
Authorities reported that he has a record of seven prior adult arrests, including three robbery charges, and two felony convictions. One of those convictions, police said, was for a rape in Georgia in 2001.
When the KPD confiscated Campbell’s donations canister, it contained $88.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie told The Observer, “I will request forfeiture of that money. After the disposition of this case, I intend to ask the prosecutor and I will personally turn it over to Officer Santiago’s family, along with any other donations anyone wishes to make.”