NEWARK, N.J. – A New Jersey police officer is facing a host of charges after investigators said that he struck a pedestrian while off duty and then drove to his mother’s home with the victim’s body in his back seat of his Honda while he decided how to proceed.
Twenty-five-year-old Louis Santiago, an officer with the Newark Police Department, has been charged with reckless vehicular homicide, desecrating human remains and related charges, Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II told NJ.com.
Stephens said Santiago was off-duty at about 3 a.m. Nov. 1 when he struck 29-year-old Damian Dymka of Garfield with his 2005 Honda Accord on the Garden State Parkway.
Dymka had been walking on the shoulder near Exit 151, NJ.com reported.
Neither Mr. Santiago nor his passenger, 25-year-old Albert Guzman, called 911 or rendered aid to Dymka, instead opting to load the victim into the Honda and drive to the Bloomfield, New Jersey, home that Santiago shares with his parents, The New York Times reported.
According to prosecutors, Santiago and Guzman may have discussed with Santiago’s mother, 53-year-old Annette Santiago, what to do with the body.
“There is an allegation that (Santiago) went to his house and talked to his mother, but we cannot comment on that because we have seen no evidence of that to date,” Patrick P. Toscano Jr., a lawyer for Santiago, told the Times on Thursday.
Stephens stated in a news release that Santiago eventually drove Dymka’s body back to the scene of the crash, at which point his father, a lieutenant with the Newark Police Department, called 911 to report that his son had been in an accident.
When New Jersey State Police troopers arrived, they found Dymka dead in the back seat of the car, Stephens added.
Louis Santiago has also been charged with leaving the scene of crash resulting in death, endangering an injured victim, hindering one’s own apprehension, conspiracy to hinder prosecution, tampering with physical evidence, obstructing the administration of law and two counts of official misconduct, Stephens confirmed.
In turn, the Newark Police Department suspended Santiago, his lawyer told the Times.
Meanwhile, investigators charged Guzman, the passenger, and Annette Santiago with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension and conspiracy to hinder apprehension and tamper with physical evidence, NJ.com reported.
According to his LinkedIn, Dymka, of Bergen County, was a registered nurse and supervisor, the news outlet reported.