The man who was a passenger in the car that struck and killed a South Salt Lake Police officer on Saturday night has been arrested on suspicion of homicide.
Officer David Romrell, 31, was killed when he and his partner responded to a report of a burglary at a business complex at 3575 S. West Temple about 5:30 p.m. Saturday. They confronted Felix Anthony Calata, 31, who was in his car when officers arrived. Calata accelerated and struck Romrell, who — despite emergency surgery — died of his injuries at a hospital. Calata was killed by police gunfire.
The passenger in the car, 43-year-old Jeffery Black, fled after police shot Calata and the car came to a stop, said South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller. Police dogs later found Black hiding in a boat repair shop, and officers interviewed him.
“They didn’t feel like there was enough evidence to hold him ... at that time, so they released him,” Keller said. “They revisited it and they issued a warrant for homicide, burglary and obstruction of justice, but other charges, too.”
“We’re just happy he’s in jail, behind bars. [Black] could have made a difference, but he didn’t,” Keller said. “We need to bring the family some closure. At least let him face the justice system and see where that all pans out.”
Romrell’s family has set up a GoFundMe account to benefit his widow and 4-month-old son.
Unified Police, who are investigating the deaths of Romrell and Calata, previously did not explain why the man was released or what his role was in the incident.
On Sunday, Calata’s brother-in-law posted an “open letter” on Facebook to Romrell’s widow, expressing his family’s support for her.
“Your husband, died a HERO!” wrote Manuel Alejandro Lopez, whose sister left Calata “after many run ins with the law and let downs” and had not heard from him “in months.”
“Felix had been on a downward spiral for a long time now,” Lopez wrote, adding, “We know what Felix did was inexcusable. His mental illness took over and we never got him back.
“We are all heartbroken by this and we are hurting too. If there is anything you may need from us to help you find peace, please reach out. Your precious baby doesn’t deserve to be left without a father. We are very sorry for your loss.”