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. ••