The New Jersey Devils celebrated the life of Detective Melvin Santiago Friday, October 16th, honoring him posthumously as the team’s Hero of the Game as they hosted the San Jose Sharks at Prudential Center. Santiago passed away in July 2014, responding to a reported armed robbery in Jersey City.
During a stoppage of play in the second period, as a montage of photos from Santiago’s life played overhead, his family received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Santiago’s mother, Cathy McBride, described the celebration of her son as overwhelming. “It’s very touching…because if he was here today, he’d be wanting to honor someone else.” Calling it bittersweet, McBride emphasized the need to remember the sacrifice he made serving his community. “My job now, and his brother’s job now is to keep his memory alive.” Santiago’s brother, Alexander McBride, 14, wore a necklace with a picture of the brothers’ final Christmas together.
Detective Santiago was 23 years old, seven months into the career he dreamed about since he was three, wanting to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Frank DeFazio, a veteran with the Jersey City Police Department. “Since the age of three, pictures, everything that we have of Melvin, all he talked about was that he wanted to be a police officer,” said Vincent DeFazio, another of Santiago’s uncles. According to the family, Santiago would step into his uncle’s boots and try to walk around as a child.
While Frank served in the police department, Vincent worked as a corrections officer for Hudson County. Between his two uncles, and other relatives in the law enforcement community, Santiago had no shortage of role models for the career he wanted to pursue.
“There are a lot of challenges facing young men and women growing up in Jersey City,” said Ed Dolan, President of the Jersey City Police Detective Benevolent Association. “But he made all the right decisions to follow his dreams.”
Detective Dolan trained Santiago when he was a student, teaching segments on basic procedures and ordinances, and served as a mentor during his seven months on the police force.
Santiago earned a 98.9 out of 100 on his first attempt at the police exam, far above the average, his uncle said. “If you get a 97, you probably separate yourself from 100 people…if you get a 92, you’re probably not getting called until you take a few more classes.”
Dolan said Santiago was ambitious in his career. “He was an excellent police officer that loved what he did.”