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Passenger in vehicle that allegedly hit, killed Officer Romrell charged with murder

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Jeffrey Black has been charged with the following counts: first-degree murder, robbery, obstructing justice, attempted burglary and failing to stop at the command of a law enforcement officer. (Photo courtesy of Salt Lake City Police Department){ }

(KUTV) -- The man who was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle that allegedly hit and killed South Salt Lake Police Officer David Romrell has been charged with murder, court documents state.

Jeffrey Black faces other charges including robbery, obstructing justice, attempted burglary and failing to stop at the command of a law enforcement officer.

According to jail documents, Black admitted to going with his alleged accomplice, Felix Calata, to the area of 3500 S. West Temple Nov. 24 to “collect a debt."

Court documents stated:

Black admitted at one point to driving the vehicle during the burglary and was present when Felix Calata was using a crowbar to attempt to enter the building. Jeffrey Black stated they were unable to gain entry and were going to leave when he saw the police officers with their red and blue lights activated on their vehicles. Jeffrey Black stated he heard the police officers yelling “Police Stop” and Felix Calata stated 'F--- it' and accelerated, in an attempt to flee, driving towards the police officers."

Police originally responded to the area because a woman reported that two men had broken into her home.

The officers encountered Black and Calata, who were driving a Chevrolet Impala, court documents say.

Calata accelerated towards Romrell. The officer was hit and dragged several feet. He later died from his injuries.

The two suspects were later arrested and taken into custody.

Calata was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds, court documents state.

Detectives determined that Calata was the driver of the vehicle on the night of Romrell's murder based on the location of the bullet holes matching the wounds he sustained.

Black was released a short time after he was arrested.

On Nov. 25, Dr. M. Blenky, the assistant medical examiner with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner, determined Romrell's cause of death was blunt force trauma and that his death was a homicide.

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On Nov. 26, police rearrested Black. During an interview, he admitted to going with Calata to take money from the Salt Lake County residence.

Black told police that he thought they had run over a mailbox, not a police officer, when they were trying to evade arrest.

Black said Calata exited the car while it was still moving. Black said he then steered the Impala into a pole.

Court documents state Black admitted to running from authorities and hiding in a board for over an hour.

Sgt. Melody Gray of Unified Police Department, which is handling the investigation, now says the timing of the arrest came down to evidence.

“We just want to clarify that initially, yes, he was interviewed and released,” Gray said. “This happens because at the initial time, probable cause was not established. We did not have enough probable cause to book him into jail.”

Chris Burbank, a retired Salt Lake City police chief who now works for the nonprofit Center for Policing Equity, said officers would be even more prudent to ensure a rock-solid case given the officer’s death.

You never want a judge to say, ‘Oh no, there’s not enough probable cause’ and release the person because that is very difficult to recover from later on down the road eventually if it were to go to trial,” Burbank said.


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