Newark Officer Hit a Pedestrian With His Car, Then Took the Body Home, Prosecutors Say

A Newark police officer was charged with reckless vehicular murder, prosecutors mentioned on Wednesday, accusing the man of hitting a pedestrian along with his private automotive and briefly taking the physique residence, the place he mentioned along with his mom what to do with it.

The officer, Louis Santiago of the Newark Police Department, was off obligation when his Honda Accord drifted into the northbound shoulder of the Garden State Parkway round 3 a.m. on Nov. 1, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office mentioned in a information launch issued on Wednesday. His automotive struck Damian Z. Dymka, 29, a nurse from Bergen County.

Credit…Essex County Prosecutor’s Office

Neither Mr. Santiago nor the passenger in his automotive, Albert Guzman, each 25, known as 911 or rendered help to Mr. Dymka, the prosecutor’s workplace mentioned. Instead, Mr. Santiago drove away and returned to the scene a number of occasions earlier than loading the sufferer into the Honda and driving to the residence he shared along with his dad and mom in Bloomfield, N.J. The two males then mentioned what to do with the physique with Mr. Santiago’s mom, Annette Santiago, 53, in keeping with prosecutors.

“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,” a lawyer for Mr. Santiago, Patrick P. Toscano Jr., mentioned in an interview on Thursday.

The prosecutor’s workplace mentioned Mr. Santiago finally returned to the scene. Mr. Santiago’s father, Lt. Luis Santiago of the Newark Police Department, known as 911 in some unspecified time in the future to report that his son had been in an accident.

When the state police arrived, they discovered Mr. Dymka’s physique in the Honda’s again seat. He was pronounced useless at the scene round 4 a.m., mentioned Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s workplace, including that he had died of blunt pressure trauma.

Mr. Santiago was charged on Nov. 18, surrendered to the State Police on Tuesday and was arraigned the subsequent day, in keeping with Mr. Toscano. He mentioned that Mr. Santiago had cooperated with the State Police.

In addition to vehicular murder, Mr. Santiago faces fees together with leaving the scene of a lethal accident, endangering an injured sufferer and two counts of official misconduct.

“We believe he has been tremendously overcharged here,” Mr. Toscano mentioned. “There is maybe probable cause for two or three charges, certainly not 12 or 13.”

The Newark Police Department suspended Mr. Santiago, his lawyer mentioned.

Mr. Toscano mentioned that, in the early hours of Nov. 1, Mr. Santiago had not too long ago completed a shift and was driving to a good friend’s residence. Mr. Toscano mentioned Mr. Dymka had been strolling towards site visitors in a werewolf costume, including that it was not clear why he was strolling alongside the freeway.

That day, the State Police took a blood pattern from Mr. Santiago and launched him, Mr. Toscano mentioned, including that he had not seen any proof that his consumer had been consuming earlier than the crash.

The Newark Police Department on Thursday referred inquiries to the prosecutor’s workplace, which directed additional inquiries to the State Police. A spokesman for the State Police didn’t instantly reply to questions on what passed off in the weeks after Mr. Dymka died and earlier than fees had been filed.

Mr. Guzman and Ms. Santiago had been additionally arrested, charged and launched on circumstances, the prosecutor’s workplace mentioned.

They every face fees together with hindering apprehension and conspiracy to desecrate human stays and tamper with bodily proof.

Mr. Guzman’s lawyer, Dennis Carletta, didn’t reply to emails or cellphone calls on Thursday. Mr. Santiago’s mom doesn’t but have a lawyer, Mr. Toscano mentioned.

Ms. Carter, the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s workplace, mentioned that Mr. Santiago’s father had not been charged and that, as of Thursday, “there’s not a basis” to file fees towards him.

News of the fees was reported this week by the information web site and The New York Post.

Mr. Dymka was a nursing supervisor at the Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne, N.J., in keeping with the heart’s web site. A GoFundMe web page organized after his loss of life mentioned that he had been a nurse earlier than and through the coronavirus pandemic.

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