Man who was in the car that ran down and killed a South Salt Lake police officer has been charged with murder

The man who was in the passenger seat when an acquaintance drove a car and hit and killed a police officer was charged Thursday with murder and other crimes.

Jeffrey Black, 43, was charged with the first-degree felony in connection with South Salt Lake Police Officer David Romrell’s Nov. 24 death. He also faces charges of obstructing justice, robbery, attempted burglary and failure to stop at the command of a police officer.

Police believe Black was in the passenger seat of the Chevrolet Impala driven by 31-year-old Felix Calata that struck Romrell as the two tried to flee from a South Salt Lake residence while trying to “collect a debt.”

After Calata hit Romrell with the vehicle, police fired their weapons and killed the driver. Black ran away and hid in a boat for over an hour to avoid being captured.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Friends of police officer David Romrell carry his casket away for planned cremation following funeral services at Larkin Sunset Gardens Cemetery in Sandy, Wed. Dec. 5, 2018.

Though prosecutors don’t accuse Black of being behind the wheel, he can still face the same penalties as if he were driving if prosecutors can show the homicide was committed “incident to an act, scheme, course of conduct, or criminal episode” where a serious crime was committed. In charging documents, prosecutors allege Black is liable because the officer’s death occurred while Black was fleeing from a robbery and attempted burglary.

No court dates have been set, and Black continues to be held in the Salt Lake County jail without the opportunity to post bail.

Romrell and his partner had responded to a report of a burglary late Saturday afternoon at a business complex at 3575 S. West Temple when they confronted Calata and Black in the Impala.

A woman had called police, according to charging documents, telling them two people were trying to break into her home.

When the two officers spotted the Impala, they got out of their vehicles and yelled for the driver to stop. Calata instead accelerated, striking Romrell with the car and dragging him several feet, according to charges.

Black later told police that they had been in the area to “tax” or take money from the woman, and they had tried to use a crowbar to pry open the woman’s door.

He said he saw the police officers yelling for them to stop, according to charges, but thought they had hit a mailbox — not a police officer.