New Jersey Cop Facing Charges After Hitting A Man With His Car And Driving His Body To His Mom's House
from the whole-lot-of-wtf-going-on-here dept
There’s something different about being a cop. The training, the atmosphere, the culture… all of it leads to officers handling crime differently than regular people. Even when they’re the ones committing it.
A normal person doesn’t do the things Newark police officer Luis Santiago did. While driving on the Garden State Parkway, Santiago struck and killed 29-year-old Damian Dymka. This is what Officer Santiago (who was off-duty and in his own vehicle) — with all his training, expertise, and knowledge of applicable laws — did next:
After striking Dymka, who was a nurse, neither Santiago or his passenger, Albert Guzman, 25, of Newark, called 911 or tried to render aid.
“(The suspects) returned to the scene multiple times before Santiago loaded the victim into the Honda and removed him from the scene,” [Essex County Prosecutor Theodore] Stephens said. “Santiago then took the body to his home in Bloomfield where he, his mother and Guzman allegedly discussed what to do with the body.”
Eventually, Santiago drove Dymka’s body back to the scene of the crash, Stephens said.
It took another cop to finally end this dark and bleak farce.
Santiago’s father, who is a lieutenant in the Newark Police Department, called 911 and reported that his son was in an accident, Stephens said.
State troopers responded to the scene of at least one crime and came across Officer Santiago and his passenger. They also came across Dymka’s dead body, which was lying in the back of Santiago’s Honda.
In addition to vehicular homicide, Santiago was charged with leaving the scene of 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.
Santiago’s co-conspirator/passenger (Albert Guzman) is facing many of the same charges. The officer’s mother — Annette Santiago — is facing the same charges as Guzman, given her alleged assistance in attempting to cover up Dymka’s killing.
It’s all very surreal and horrifying. Some drivers might panic when they hit a pedestrian. Very few of them will leave and return to the scene several times before driving the victim’s now-dead body out to their parents’ house to discuss what to do about it.
Maybe it’s a law enforcement thing. This incident is somewhat similar to the bizarre actions of South Dakota attorney general Jason Ravnsborg after he struck and killed a pedestrian. While Ravnsborg did call 911 within minutes of the accident, he claimed he had no idea what he had hit. He returned to the accident scene the next day and allegedly “discovered” the body of the man he had struck and killed, 55-year-old Joseph Boever. Investigators found the victim’s broken glasses inside Ravnsborg’s vehicle, casting doubt on his claim that he didn’t know what he had hit until the next day. Investigators also pointed out Boever had been carrying a flashlight, which Ravnsborg denied seeing. The flashlight was near Boever’s body and still on when investigators arrived at the scene the following morning.
These aren’t normal reactions. These are the actions of people who think they have a better chance than most to escape any culpability for their actions. Most people would not compound criminal charges after striking a pedestrian. But Officer Santiago did. And, worse, he was surrounded by enablers unwilling to deter him from turning a pedestrian accident into something far worse than a hit-and-run.
But equally as surreal are the statements released by the State Police, who had encountered this bizarre scene and found a driver with a dead body in his car. While it’s understandable that public statements wouldn’t include any accusations of wrongdoing while an investigation was underway, the State Police withheld any information on the driver, giving residents the impression this was a normal accident involving just some guy… and that it really might be the fault of the person who was killed.
State police say a man from Garfield was killed after being struck by a car while walking on the Garden State Parkway.
The accident happened Monday morning near Exit 151.
State police is unsure why the pedestrian was walking on the highway.
His identification is pending family verification. The driver involved was not injured.
Just the facts. I mean, it’s all factual but it leaves out all the interesting facts, like the body in the back of the car, or the driver being a public servant. Three weeks later, the truth is out. And chances are that if this had involved a regular person rather than a cop, a few of the more unusual details (like the body in the car) would have been added to initial press statements.
Prosecutors won’t have to do much to prove intent. Someone who isn’t trying to evade responsibility for striking a pedestrian with their car simply doesn’t do the things alleged here. And someone who’s a cop should definitely never do these things because they’re supposed to be holding themselves to a higher standard, even when they’re off-duty. It looks like Officer Santiago rolled the dice on being a cop, possibly assuming that would be enough to allow him to escape accountability. That gamble failed to pay off and now Officer Santiago is going to have to face the consequences of his completely inexplicable actions.