The silver Honda Accord zoomed past Exit 150 of the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey just before 3am. The driver was Louis Santiago, an off-duty Newark police officer. His cousin Albert Guzman was in the passenger seat.
According to the Essex County prosecutor, it was Halloween night 2021 and Santiago was drunk.
According to the prosecutor, he was staring at his cell phone when his car spilled over his shoulder and hit a man who happened to be walking on a darkened highway.
According to lawyer Patrick Toscano Jr., the 25-year-old Santiago initially suspected he had hit an animal. Brown fur covering his shoulders.
Dymka is pronounced dead in the field, but only after more than two hours.
During the last two hours, prosecutors said Santiago returned home with Dymka’s body in the backseat and returned to the crash site without calling 911 or trying to help the man.
According to the prosecutor, Annette Santiago said when her son appeared at home, “return to where you hit her body.”
He is currently charged with twelve felony charges, including reckless vehicle murder and endangering injured victims. Guzman and Santiago’s mother were also charged with tampering with evidence and other crimes.
Meanwhile, Dymka’s friends and family are still in shock and sadness. Some are suffering from annoying questions.
What if a policeman calls 911 right away? Was Damian saved?
“I can’t know that because there was an incredibly selfish person,” said Miranda Stone, a close friend who met Dymka when she was a student at Bergen Community College.
It’s very difficult to understand the sequence of events, not only the actions of the policeman, but what his friends and loved ones said was who Dimka was as a person.
He was kind and compassionate and made most of his mistakes. Four of them said in an interview with NBC News.
He was the one everyone relied on during the crisis. He was the one who dropped everything to help you.
“I remember feeling okay to hug Damian if things went wrong,” said longtime friend Jess Baldanero. “He didn’t let go until he felt you were okay.”
It was appropriate for him to work as a nurse and spend his days helping the elderly and the physically challenged in a county-run facility in northern New Jersey.
But by the fall of last year, Dymka was ready for change.
He was itching on the trip, and his boyfriend felt the same. So they made a plan. They both got a Bachelor of Science degree to become a travel nurse. This is a job that gives you the freedom to explore the United States away from New Jersey.
“We wanted a great way to travel the country,” said his boyfriend, Rosemberg Ochoa. “Hike in the national park. Just walk around.”
Dymka was planning to start an online class on November 1st, the day after the accident, but never logged on that day. He also did not attend Wayne’s Preakness Healthcare Center. This was very unusual.
His loved ones will find out later that day that Dymka was the victim of a fatal car accident. A few weeks passed before they knew the complete horror of what happened in those early morning hours.
Santiago made a daytime shift on October 31, 2021.
The son of Lieutenant Newark, he joined the army in 2019 and quickly made a name for himself. He received a special award for supporting two major drug arrests in 2020.
After work that Sunday, Santiago drove to a bar in his hometown of Bloomfield to watch the Dallas Cowboys match, said his lawyer Toscano.
Santiago drank a few cups, but not enough to hurt his driving, Toscano said. The off-duty officer left with Guzman after the last call and headed for his friend’s house.
People rarely walk along the Garden State Parkway, the main highway that runs the length of New Jersey, especially during pre-dawn hours. How Dymka got there remains a mystery to his loved ones.
According to prosecutors, Santiago ran the car after beating Dimka, but after returning to the scene many times, he loaded the man’s body into the car.
According to the prosecutor, Santiago drove to a house shared with his parents, with Guzman in the passenger seat and Dimka’s body behind him.
According to a probable cause affidavit signed by state police, Guzman informed Santiago’s mother that her son was drunk and beat a man while driving, and that his body was in Honda.
According to the affidavit, she walked towards the car and looked at her body after talking to Santiago.
According to the affidavit, she instructed him to return the dead man to the crash site. Santiago’s father called 911, but the prosecutor did not elaborate on when this happened.
According to the affidavit, Santiago was angry and discussed changing clothes when he learned that his father had contacted the police.
According to the police affidavit, “my f —— shirt has blood,” Santiago said.
The affidavit says his mother handed him a towel so that he could clean the blood himself before he took off.
Santiago returned to the scene of the accident shortly before the appearance of New Jersey soldiers.
According to the affidavit, soldiers found Santiago standing beside his car and Dimka’s body in the backseat. Santiago explained what had happened and admitted that he had hit the victim in a car, police said in an affidavit filed with the Bloomfield District Court.
He appeared drunk and was taken for a blood test, says the affidavit. However, Santiago appeared drunk and was not arrested on the scene, even though he admitted to moving the corpse. He was not charged until more than three weeks later.
Police experts said it was strange that the soldiers did not test Santiago for alcohol on the spot. If they did and Santiago failed, he might have been arrested on the spot.
“If they don’t have a good explanation, such as the drinking detector didn’t work or they didn’t drink for some reason, the only explanation that comes to my mind is that they say we’re” expert etiquette. ” It means that he was engaged in what he called. Nancy Harborfeld, a professor of police science at the John Jay Criminal Justice University in New York City, said.
She described it as “wrong, unethical, and perhaps a direct violation of the department’s SOP,” or a standard operating procedure.
A New Jersey police spokesman referred the question to the Essex County Public Prosecutor’s Office. Catherine Carter, a spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office, said it was a matter of state police.
Toscano, a lawyer for Santiago, said the story released by the prosecutor misunderstood Santiago’s actions that day.
“This is not concealment. There were no attempts to conceal,” Toscano said. “It was a horrifying, horrifying accident, but there was no one Iota in the cover-up here.”
After noticing that Toscano had hit a person, he called his father from the scene, Toscano told NBC News, and Elder Santiago immediately called the New Jersey police.
According to Toscano, Santiago put the victim in the backseat with the intention of taking the victim to the nearest hospital. But then he noticed that the man was dead, Toscano said.
According to Toscano, Santiago went home with his body not to cover up the crime, but to talk to his father about what to do next. The lawyer couldn’t say why Santiago didn’t call his father again.
“His words to me,” I panicked. I didn’t know what to do, “said Toscano.
According to Toscano, Santiago’s father had already gone to the scene of the accident by the time his son returned home. According to Toscano, his father contacted his son’s boss, Lee Douglas, the Newark police chief, who also appeared at the crash site.
Born in Poland and raised in Garfield, NJ, Dymka was sentenced to die on the scene at 5:27 am, about two and a half hours after being beaten. According to a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the cause of death was blunt trauma.
The actual time of death was not disclosed, and the state coroner’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Louis Santiago has been charged with 12 felony charges: reckless vehicle murder, strict responsibility vehicle murder, leaving the scene of a deadly crash, endangering injured victims, human bodies Desecration / moving, conspiracy to desecrate human bodies, hindering one’s own anxiety, hindering prosecution, falsifying physical evidence, hindering enforcement of law, counting official offenses twice ..
According to the public prosecutor’s office, he also suffered nine unindictable crimes, including drunk driving and illegal window tinting.
He pleaded not guilty. The results of his blood alcohol levels have not been published.
Newark police have suspended Santiago, his lawyer said. A spokesman for one department declined to comment.
Toscano, a former first prosecutor at the Essex County Public Prosecutor’s Office, said he was shocked by the number of leveled charges against his clients.
“Maybe there was reason to prosecute a couple of crimes, but prosecuting 12 or 13 against law enforcement officers was a blatant and deliberate overkill,” Toscano said. ..
Toscano added that Dimka’s death weighed heavily on young police officers and the rest of his family.
“These are good people,” Toscano said, especially before mentioning Santiago. “He always talks about the victim. He talks about the victim rather than the accusation against him.”
Annette Santiago, 53, was charged with a plot to desecrate human bodies and prevent them from being arrested, and a plot to prevent arrests and falsify physical evidence. She pleaded not guilty.
Her lawyer, Vincent Scoca, declined to comment.
25-year-old Guzman was also charged with the same charges. He pleaded not guilty and his lawyer, Dennis Carletta, did not respond to the request for comment.
Dymka spent most of the night at a Halloween party at Club Feathers in River Edge, New Jersey’s oldest gay night club.
“We all loved him,” said owner Paul Vinetti. “He was always funny, cheerful and energetic. If you need a laugh, go to him.”
According to Vinetti, Dimka appeared with a group of friends in costume around 9 pm. For the next few hours he drank and danced inside the store, but most of the night chatted with people on the wooden walls outside the club.
According to Vinetti, Dimka was noisy when he left around 1 am, but it wasn’t wasted. He jumped on Uber with a friend, but accidentally misplaced his phone.
“He hugged and kissed everyone almost every night and boarded Uber,” Vinetti said. “That was the last time we met him.”
Vinetti said he was stunned and frightened when he learned that Dimka had been killed late the next day.
“An accident happens. It wasn’t a coincidence of what he did after that,” Vinetti said, referring to Louis Santiago.
“No matter what this cop did, anyone involved with him would have to pay for their actions.”
According to his boyfriend Ochoa, Dimka’s parents were still too sad to talk about the tragedy.
Ochoa said Dimka went to a friend’s house in Bloomfield, but the friend who was drinking that night wasn’t sure how Dimka left or how he walked the Garden State Parkway at 3am. ..
“I don’t know,” he said.
It was impossible for Ochoa to understand what happened to his boyfriend, the talented artist, the cat lover, and most of all, the compassionate soul.
“I don’t understand that this can happen to anyone, and I don’t particularly understand how it can happen to someone like Damian,” Ochoa said.
“If he had a loved one, he would hit the building in a fire. He was exactly that person.”