Remembering their fallen hero

A plaque was ded­ic­ated last week out­side 25th Po­lice Dis­trict headquar­ters in memory of Joa­quin “Jack” Montijo, an off-duty po­lice of­ficer shot to death in 1990.

Montijo’s wid­ow Car­men, who lives in Tor­res­dale, at­ten­ded the June 15 ce­re­mony along with nu­mer­ous re­l­at­ives. Deputy Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Richard Ross and John McNesby, pres­id­ent of Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5, gave her a flag of the city of Phil­adelphia.

Montijo was sur­vived by three sons. On June 13, the 21st an­niversary of the shoot­ing, his daugh­ter-in-law gave birth to his third grand­child.

The rest of the sur­viv­ors in­clude two 18th Po­lice Dis­trict of­ficers — Marta Montijo-Peterson, a cous­in of the de­ceased, and Eric Nun­ez, the late of­ficer’s neph­ew.

Of­ficer Montijo was 35 and a 19-month vet­er­an of the force when he was shot once between the eyes in June 1990 on the 4000 block of N. Fairhill St. He died about two hours later.

Po­lice ar­res­ted Mi­chael “Spock” LaCava, who lived on the block. At the 1991 tri­al, the pro­sec­utor ar­gued that LaCava began shoot­ing at Montijo, who re­turned fire.

A jury con­victed LaCava of first-de­gree murder.

As he was be­ing led out of the courtroom, a re­l­at­ive of the vic­tim said, “You got what you de­served.”

LaCava re­spon­ded, “So did Jack.”

The same jury later ruled that LaCava should die for his crime.

LaCava ap­pealed, and in 1995, the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court va­cated the death sen­tence and ordered a new pen­alty phase.

The court de­term­ined that LaCava’s tri­al at­tor­ney failed to ob­ject when the pro­sec­utor re­peatedly made ref­er­ence to the de­fend­ant’s past drug his­tory dur­ing the pen­alty phase.

In 1996, a new jury was dead­locked on the death pen­alty, and a judge sen­tenced LaCava to life in pris­on.

The Span­ish Amer­ic­an Law En­force­ment As­so­ci­ation sponsored the plaque, which was the fifth ded­ic­ated in 2011 and 97th over­all.

The plaque sits between ones in memory of po­lice of­ficers Joseph Re­iss, who died in 1959 when he fell in­to a 40-foot-deep crater at Fifth and Clear­field streets, and James Joseph Kline, who died in 1968 in the Vi­et­nam War.

Any­one in­ter­ested in spon­sor­ing a plaque can con­tact at­tor­ney James J. Binns at 215-275-3000. ••

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