An off-duty police officer allegedly hit and killed a man with his car, but rather than reporting the tragedy to 911 or his law enforcement colleagues, he instead drove home with the body and talked the situation over with his parents, according to authorities.
Louis Santiago, a police officer in Newark, New Jersey, is facing several charges that include reckless vehicular homicide and desecrating human remains after he allegedly committed a hit-and-run on 1 November, according to the Essex County prosecutor's office.
Both Mr Santiago's mother and another passenger in the car on the night of the accident are also facing charges.
On the night of the incident, Mr Santiago was driving on the Garden State Parkway at 3am Halloween night, during which time he allegedly drifted on the right shoulder of the road and hit Damian Z Dymka, a nurse, according to the prosecutor's office.
Patrick Toscano Jr, an attorney representing Mr Santiago, said Mr Dymka was walking against traffic and was reportedly wearing a werewolf costume. He told VICE News that the incident happened in the "pitch dark" and that Mr Santiago did not initially realizse what he had hit.
Prosecutors claim Albert Guzman, the passenger in Mr Santiago's car, did not call 911 or render aid to Mr Dymka. They also claim that the men returned to the accident scene "multiple times" before deciding to load the body into Mr Santiago's car.
“Officer Santiago placed the decedent in his vehicle in order to take him to the nearest hospital,” Mr Toscano said in the statement forwarded to VICE News. “Parenthetically, Officer Santiago’s house was in very close proximity to the accident scene.”
The men allegedly took Mr Dymka's body back to Mr Santiago's home, where he, Mr Guzman, and his mother, Annette Santiago, discussed what to do. It was Mr Santiago's father, who is also a police lieutenant in Newark, who called 911 and reported that his son had been in an accident.
Mr Santiago returned to the scene of the accident with Mr Dymka's body, which New Jersey State Police found in his backseat. Prosecutors said that Mr Dymka was dead when they found him, but were unclear when the man actually died.
Mr Toscano said of the charges that "most" are "either unfounded or duplicative”.
“Any loss of life is tragic. This one is no different. A horrific tragedy. No other way to say it,” Mr Toscano said in a separate statement he sent to VICE News. “That having been said, we have seen no evidence to date which reflects that this occurrence was anything other than a terrible accident—not a crime, an accident.”
Mr Santiago has pleaded guilty to his charges and was released on Wednesday to be held at his home.
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