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Police officer charged with striking pedestrian, leaving scene with victim then bringing back the body

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Louis Santiago, 25, of BloomfieldECPO

A Newark police officer faces several charges after investigators said he struck a pedestrian while off-duty, put the victim in his car and then later returned to the scene with the victim's dead body.

The officer, Louis Santiago, 25, of Bloomfield, has been charged with reckless vehicular homicide, desecrating human remains and related charges, according to Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II.

Stephens said Santiago was off-duty and driving a 2005 Honda Accord north on the Garden State Parkway about 3 a.m. on Nov. 1 when he struck Damian Z. Dymka, 29, of Garfield, who was walking in the shoulder near Exit 151.

"Santiago failed to maintain his lane and traveled on the right shoulder of the Garden State Parkway striking (Dymka)," the prosecutor said in a statement.

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," 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.

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.

When New Jersey State Police troopers arrived, they found the victim dead in the back seat of the car, according to Stephens.

Santiago was charged with vehicular homicide, 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, Stephens said.

Investigators charged Guzman, the passenger, with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension, and conspiracy to hinder apprehension and tamper with physical evidence.

Annette Santiago, 53, of Bloomfield, the mother of Louis Santiago, was charged with the same offenses as Guzman, Stephens said.

All three were arrested and released pending court hearings, the prosecutor said.

According to his LinkedIn, Dymka was a registered nurse and supervisor who worked nights at Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne for the past several years.

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Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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