A Newark cop was allegedly drunk and on his cellphone when he fatally struck a nurse with his car and then drove the body to his parents’ house, according to court documents.
Louis Santiago, 25, of Bloomfield, was slapped with reckless vehicular homicide, desecrating human remains, DWI and other charges after he struck Damian Dymka, 29, of Garfield, on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway about 3 a.m. Nov. 1, authorities said.
The off-duty officer loaded the nurse’s body into his car and drove to his parents’ Bloomfield home, where his mother, Annette Santiago, 53, allegedly told him to return the body to “where you hit it,” NJ.com reported, citing an affidavit of probable cause.
Santiago’s attorney, Patrick Toscano, said Dymka was wearing a werewolf Halloween costume and walking on a darkened stretch of highway when he was struck.
He conceded that Santiago had been drinking alcohol at a local bar, but not to the point of intoxication or impairment, adding that the cop believed Dymka was still alive after he hit him and that he carried him to his car to get help.
“This was a horrible, horrible accident,” Toscano told NJ Advance Media on Monday. “But our client did not see him. He thought at first that he hit a deer or an animal. Then when he realized it was a man, he tried to get him help.”
The lawyer did not say why his client didn’t just call 911 for help.
According to the affidavit, Santiago also deleted text messages and evidence of calls from his phone before he turned it over to state police, NJ.com said.
“(They) never called 911 or rendered aid, but returned to the scene multiple times before (Santiago) loaded Vic in the backseat,” the affidavit states, referring to the officer and his passenger, Albert Guzman, 25, of Newark.
Toscano said investigators have provided no evidence that his client deleted anything or that he was talking or texting at the time of the accident.
Santiago’s father, a Newark police lieutenant, called State Police to tell them his son had hurt someone in an accident, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said last week.
The suspect discussed changing his clothes after the accident and said, “my f—- shirt has blood on it,” according to the affidavit.
Santiago’s mother and Guzman have been charged with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension and conspiracy to hinder apprehension and tamper with physical evidence.
The officer also faces charges of leaving the scene of a 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 official misconduct.