Drunk NJ cop killed nurse then he and officer dad desecrated remains, indictment says
An off-duty Newark police officer and his father, a lieutenant with the Newark police force, have been indicted in connection with a pedestrian death they are accused of trying to cover up.
Damian Dymka, a 29-year-old nurse from Garfield, was struck and killed by Officer Louis Santiago while walking on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway early Nov. 1, 2021, according to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens.
Dymka was coming home from a Halloween party around 3 a.m., Stephens said.
He had misplaced his cellphone and was walking on the shoulder of the highway in Bloomfield when 25-year-old Officer Santiago, who had been drinking, struck and killed him in his personal car, according to prosecutors.
Santiago’s 26-year-old cousin, Albert Guzman, of Newark, was a passenger and has also been charged.
Instead of immediately calling 911, they are both accused of driving away to the Santiago family residence, where they met with Lt. Luis Santiago.
The younger Santiago then returned to the scene and put Dymka’s body in his car, driving off, after which Lt. Santiago eventually arrived at the scene of the crash and called 911, according to Stephens.
Following the emergency call, the younger Santiago is accused of returning to the scene of the crash and unloading Dymka’s body shortly before State Police arrived.
An Essex County grand jury returned a 16-count indictment on July 15, charging the younger Santiago with vehicular homicide, knowingly leaving the scene of a fatal car crash, unlawfully disturbing human remains, causing death while driving under the influence of alcohol, endangering an injured victim, tampering with evidence, hindering prosecution and multiple counts of conspiracy.
The indictment specifically accuses the younger Santiago of deleting phone data, tampering with the crime scene, failing to call emergency aid, and lying to law enforcement.
Both the younger Santiago and Guzman have been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hinder prosecution, and tamper with evidence.
The younger Santiago has also been charged with two counts of official misconduct.
Guzman was charged with hindering the prosecution of another for the crime of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash resulting in death by concealing or destroying evidence.
The elder Santiago has been indicted for hindering the prosecution of another for the crime of leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash resulting in death by providing false information to police on the morning of the incident.
The elder Santiago was also indicted for official misconduct by failing to properly summon emergency aid for a motor vehicle accident involving an injured person.
Officer Santiago’s mother, Annette Santiago, was originally charged, but the grand jury declined to indict her. All charges against the 53-year-old have been dismissed.
A GoFundMe campaign set up for Dymka's family has collected more than $20,000 in donations to help pay for legal fees "to ensure Damian gets the justice he is entitled to, without putting his family under any undue financial strain."
As of Thursday, both Officer Santiago and Lt. Santiago were indefinitely suspended without pay from the Newark Police Department, according to authorities.