Ex-Cop Who Hit Man, Took Body Home Is Sentenced

Former Newark officer Louis Santiago apologizes for 'inexcusable' actions
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2021 7:50 AM CST
Updated Aug 3, 2023 7:54 AM CDT
Prosecutors: Off-Duty Cop Hit and Killed Man, Put Body in Car
Police responded to the scene after the officer's dad called 911.   (Getty Images)
UPDATE Aug 3, 2023 7:54 AM CDT

A former police officer in New Jersey who was off-duty, drunk, and still wearing his Halloween costume when he hit a pedestrian with his car in the early hours of Nov. 1, 2021, has been sentenced to five years in prison. Prosecutors said that instead of rendering first aid, Louis Santiago, 26, put the body of 29-year-old nurse Damian Dymka in his car and drove home before returning to the scene. He pleaded guilty to three felonies, including second-degree vehicular homicide, NBC News reports. During a hearing Wednesday, the former Newark officer apologized for his "inexcusable" actions. "I forgive you, boy," the victim's father, Andrzej Dymka, told him. "I understand you are a young person. I lost my son. Thank God you're still alive," he said. "And you have a chance to fix your life. I will cross my fingers for you."

Nov 25, 2021 7:50 AM CST

An off-duty New Jersey police officer stands accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian in the middle of the night earlier this month—and then putting the dead man's body in his car and taking it home to debate what to do about it. NBC News reports Newark officer Louis Santiago, 25, was driving at 3am on Nov. 1 when he "failed to maintain his lane and traveled on the right shoulder of the Garden State Parkway," prosecutors said in a statement, per NJ.com. In doing so, he hit 29-year-old nurse Damian Dymka, who was walking on the parkway's shoulder.

Albert Guzman was riding with Santiago at the time, and prosecutors say neither man called 911 or tried to administer aid. Instead, they allegedly left and returned to the scene a few times before putting Dymka's body in the Honda Accord and driving to Santiago's home in Bloomfield, reports the New York Times. While at home, Santiago's mother, Annette Santiago, allegedly joined the discussion of what to do. Louis Santiago ultimately returned to the scene with the body, and his father, a Newark police lieutenant, called 911 to say his son was involved in an accident.

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Prosecutors say when New Jersey State Police responded to the scene they found Dymka in the car's back seat. Louis Santiago has been charged with reckless vehicular homicide, desecrating human remains, and tampering with physical evidence, among other charges. Guzman and Annette Santiago were also arrested and face charges including conspiracy to desecrate human remains and hindering apprehension. All three have been released pending hearings. (Read more car crash stories.)

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