New Jersey police officer charged over accusations of hitting pedestrian, taking body home

Louis Santiago, a Newark police officer, faces multiple charges for allegedly hitting a pedestrian in his car and taking the body home with him. Photo courtesy of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office

Nov. 26 (UPI) — A Newark, N.J., police officer faces charges for allegedly hitting a man with his personal car and taking the body home, where he discussed what to do with his mother.

Louis Santiago, of the Newark Police Department, has been charged with reckless vehicular homicide and desecrating human remains, according to a news release from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

The charges stem from an investigation that found that Santiago, who was off duty and driving his personal Honda Accord, traveled into the right shoulder and struck Damian Z. Dymka, a 29-year-old nurse from Bergen County. The prosecutor’s office said the incident occurred around 3 a.m. on Nov. 1 while Santiago was traveling northbound on the Garden State Highway.

Neither Santiago nor his passenger, Albert Guzman, of Newark, gave aid to the victim or called 911, prosecutors allege. The two (both 25) instead returned to the scene multiple times before taking the body to Santiago’s home in Bloomfield, the prosecutor’s office said. At home, he allegedly discussed with his mother, Annette Santiago, what to do with the body.

New Jersey State Police later found the victim in the back seat of Santiago’s car after his father, a lieutenant with the Newark Police Department, called 911 and reported that his son had been in an accident, according to the news release.

Guzman has been charged with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension, and conspiracy to hinder apprehension and tamper with physical evidence. Annette Santiago, 53, faces the same charges, prosecutors said.

All three have been released with conditions.

“There is an allegation that he 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 Louis Santiago, told The New York Times.

Louis Santiago had completed a shift early Nov. 1 and was driving to a friend’s house, Toscano told the paper. Dymka was walking against traffic in a werewolf costume, he said.

Santiago has also been charged with leaving the scene of a deadly accident, endangering an injured victim and two counts of official misconduct, the paper reports. His lawyer said Santiago, who has been suspended from the department, has cooperated with state police and he has been “tremendously overcharged.”


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