An off-duty New Jersey police officer who was arrested and charged in a vehicular homicide was under the influence of alcohol and using his cell phone when he fatally struck nurse Damian Dymka (pictured)
An off-duty New Jersey police officer accused of striking and killing a nurse with his car was under the influence of alcohol and using his cell phone when he fatally struck the victim, who was dressed as a werewolf at the time, it was claimed.
Newark officer Louis Santiago, 25, faces charges of driving while intoxicated, vehicular homicide, desecrating human remains, and more in the November 1 death of Damian Dymka, a 29-year-old nurse.
Santiago’s lawyer, Patrick Toscano, confirmed the cop had been drinking alcohol at a local bar when he struck Dymka. But he insists Santiago was not drunk, with the cop currently out on bail.
The attorney instead argues that the incident was an accident, alleging Dymka was dressed in a werewolf Halloween costume and walking on a darkened stretch of the Garden State Parkway, making him hard to see.
‘This was a horrible, horrible accident,’ Toscano told NewJersey.com 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.’
Investigators also allege that Santiago – who did not immediately call 911 to aid in the situation – actually deleted text messages and calls from his phone before turning the device over to state police.
Toscano denounced these claims, stating authorities have no proof Santiago deleted phone content or was on the device at the time of the crash.
Newark officer Louis Santiago, 25, (pictured) faces charges of driving while intoxicated, vehicular homicide, desecrating human remains, and more in Dymka’s death
Santiago’s attorney attorney argued the incident was an accident, alleging Dymka was dressed in a werewolf Halloween costume and walking on a darkened stretch of the Garden State Parkway, making him hard to see
Santiago was driving on the Garden State Parkway on November 1 at around 3 a.m. in a 2005 Honda Accord – traveling northbound near exit 151 – when he drifted off to the right shoulder and struck 29-year-old nurse Damian Dymka.
Santiago had a passenger with him, 25-year-old Albert Guzman of Newark.
After hitting Dymka, neither Santiago nor Guzman called 911 or offered help.
They apparently returned to the scene ‘multiple times’ before finally loading Dymka into the Honda and taking him away.
Santiago then took the body to his home in nearby Bloomfield. Santiago, Guzman and Santiago’s mother, Annette Santiago, all discussed what to do before Santiago returned to the scene again, police said.
Annette ‘viewed vic (victim) in the back seat,’ and instructed Santiago ‘put that body back where you hit it’ and to ‘put it on the floor’ of the car, the affidavit states.
Only after this did Santiago’s father, Newark Police Lieutenant Luis Santiago, call 911 and report his son was in an accident.
New Jersey State Police arrived to discover Dymka was dead in the back seat.
Toscano has not stated why Santiago failed to call for emergency responders and instead moved the body himself.
However, according to the affidavit, the suspect was outraged that his father called the authorities.
Investigators also allege that Santiago – who did not immediately call 911 to aid in the situation – actually deleted text messages and calls from his phone before turning the device over to state police (Pictured: Damian Dymka)
Santiago and Guzman were traveling on the Garden State Parkway (pictured) when Dymka was struck
Santiago’s father, Luis, is himself a lieutenant in the Newark Police Department. Luis called 911 to report the accident
Santiago allegedly discussed changing his clothing and said: ‘My f****** shirt has blood on it.’
Annette is said to have then given her son a towel to clean himself up with.
Santiago’s mother then gave her son a towel to clean the blood off himself, the affidavit states.
Santiago was arrested and given a laundry list of charges, including vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of the crash resulting in death, endangering an injured victim, desecrating/moving human remains, hindering one’s own apprehension, conspiracy to hinder prosecution, tampering with physical evidence, obstructing the administration of law, and two counts of official misconduct.
Albert Guzman and Annette Santiago were charged with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension, and conspiracy to hinder apprehension and tamper with physical evidence.
All three defendants are currently released from custody with conditions.
Dymka’s family has started a GoFundMe, in which they state he was ‘a wonderful person, kind soul, and amazing cat dad.’
Meanwhile, Dymka’s loved ones are posting tributes to him on social media.
‘Damian Ziggy Dymka was a generous, kind, and thoughtful person, a great nurse beloved by his colleagues and patients, and a caring friend to all. He will be greatly missed,’ wrote Facebook page Rainbow Cafe NNJ.
Dymka’s loved ones are posting tributes to him on social media
‘Words will never describe how much of a light you were in all of our lives,’ his friend, Mike Schiotis shared.
‘[Damian] was one of the most gentle-hearted and compassionate human beings to ever walk this earth. Thank you for countless laughs and memories.’
‘The world is a little bit darker without you, Damian,’ echoed Kyle John.
‘I’m forever grateful for the role you played in my life and the friendship you gave. We haven’t talked much lately, and now I’ll miss you forever. ‘
‘It saddens me to think that the world won’t be able to be brightened by your kind spirit, love of others, and your infectious smile and humor,’ his ex Sean Michael Ciobanu said.
‘We created many memories when we dated and shortly married. I will hold on to those memories for the rest of my life.’