Essex County, NJ – An off-duty Newark police officer who is the son of a decorated veteran police official is facing multiple charges after he ran over a pedestrian on the side of the Garden State Parkway and then took the dead man’s body home to get advice from his mom.
The preliminary investigation determined that the incident occurred at about 3 a.m. on Nov. 1 when 25-year-old Newark Police Officer Louis Santiago was driving his 2005 Honda Accord off-duty on the Garden State Parkway northbound, near Exit 151, the Shore News Network reported.
Albert Guzman, 25, was a passenger in the officer’s personally-own vehicle (POV).
Investigators believe Officer Santiago failed to control his vehicle and traveled onto the right-hand shoulder of the roadway.
That was when he ran over 29-year-old Damian Z. Dyinka, a nurse from Bergen County who was walking down the side of the parkway, the Shore News Network reported.
Charging documents filed by Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II showed that Officer Santiago left the scene after he crashed his Honda into Dyinka.
The affidavit said he and Guzman “returned to the scene multiple times” and left again, but never rendered any First Aid or called 911, CNN reported.
Finally, they returned to Dyinka’s body “and removed him from the scene,” prosecutors said in a press release announcing the charges.
Officer Santiago drove to his home in Bloomfield with the nurse’s dead body in the back seat and discussed with his mother, Annette Santiago, what to do with the man’s body, CNN reported.
Eventually, the officer returned to the crash scene and his father, a decorated veteran Newark police lieutenant, called 911 and reported that his son had been in an accident, the Shore News Network reported.
“When the New Jersey State Police arrived, the victim was dead in the back seat of the car,” according to the prosecutor’s press release.
Officer Santiago was arrested and charged with reckless vehicular homicide, desecrating/moving human remains, leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death, endangering an injured victim, tampering with physical evidence, hindering one’s own apprehension, conspiracy to hinder prosecution, obstructing the administration of law, and two counts of official misconduct, CNN reported.
Santiago’s mother and his passenger were also arrested in connection with the incident.
Annette Santiago and Guzman were both charged with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension, and conspiracy to hinder apprehension, and tamper with physical evidence, CNN reported.
The prosecutor’s office said in its press release that all three defendants had “been arrested, charged, and released with conditions.”
Patrick Toscano, the defense attorney for Officer Santiago, said nothing about the crash that killed Dyinka was intentional, CNN reported.
“Officer Santiago was charged with over a dozen crimes, most of which are unfounded… there truly was no intentional or reckless homicidal act committed by Officer Santiago at any time,” Toscano told reporters.
Newark police have declined to comment on the officer’s arrest and referred all questions to the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, NBC News reported.