Two off-duty Newark police officers indicted in death of pedestrian in Bloomfield

NEWARK, NJ — Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II announced July 21 that Newark Police Lt. Luis Santiago and his son, Officer Louis Santiago, have both been indicted in connection with the death of Damian Z. Dymka, a nurse who was struck and killed by Louis Santiago.

On Nov. 1, 2021, Dymka, 29, of Garfield, was coming home from a Halloween party. He had misplaced his cell phone and was walking on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway in Bloomfield.

It is alleged that Louis Santiago, 25, of Bloomfield, struck Dymka with his car shortly before 3 a.m., causing fatal injuries. Louis Santiago, who was off-duty at the time, was driving his personal car. Albert Guzman, 26, of Newark, a passenger in the car at the time, is also charged; Guzman is Louis Santiago’s cousin.

Instead of immediately calling 9-1-1, it is alleged that Louis Santiago and his cousin left the scene, and went to the Santiago family residence, where they met with Luis Santiago. The younger Santiago then returned to the scene and put Dymka’s body in his car. While Louis Santiago drove away from the scene with the body of Dymka, his father went to the scene of the crash and — after a significant delay — called 9-1-1. Louis Santiago and Guzman then went to Santiago’s parents’ home with Dymka’s body in Santiago’s car.

Following the 9-1-1 call, Louis Santiago returned to the scene of the crash with Dymka’s body in the car shortly before state police arrived.

On Friday, July 15, an Essex County grand jury returned a 16-count indictment 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. He was also charged with two counts of official misconduct.

The indictment specifically alleges that Louis Santiago deleted phone data, tampered with the crime scene, failed to call emergency aid and made false statements to law enforcement.

Both Louis Santiago and Guzman were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hinder prosecution and tamper with evidence.

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.

Luis Santiago was 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. He was also indicted for official misconduct by failing to properly summon emergency aid for a motor vehicle accident involving an injured person.

The mother, Annette Santiago, 53, was originally charged, but the grand jury declined to indict her. Consequently, all charges against her have been dismissed.

All three defendants have been processed and released in accordance with law. A date has not yet been set for their first court appearances on the charges in the indictment. The case is being handled by Assistant Prosecutor Adam B. Wells.

The charges in the indictment are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.