OGDEN — They had bright futures, tragically cut short.
Derek Jasper was anxiously awaiting his LDS mission call — the letter was supposed to arrive in the mail next week. His roommate, Blake Strebel, was a Weber State University student also wanting to go on a mission someday, but he first had his eyes on his associate degree so he could pursue his lifelong dream of a career in law enforcement when he returned.
The young men were killed late Wednesday when a car fleeing from Ogden police ran a red light and slammed into their car at the intersection of 28th Street and Washington Boulevard. They were returning to their 25th Street apartment after playing basketball.
Jasper's mother, Jennifer, had spoken with her 18-year-old son just minutes before he died.
"I called him to see how he was doing," she said as she sat on the couch of her Ogden home, surrounded by family members.
At 19-year-old Blake Strebel's family home in South Jordan, they were also in shock.
"Our eyes have been red with crying. We're not over that. I don't think we'll be over that for quite some time because Blake was a very fine young man. We're very sorry to see him leave this Earth," said Strebel's grandfather, John Strebel.
The two suspected in their deaths were both in the hospital for most of the day Thursday, but police officers arrested them once they were released from the hospital. Ogden police said Mark Mora, 17, and Andrew Gomez, 21, are suspected of committing a home burglary Tuesday on the city's east bench. Neighbors saw the attempted break-in and confronted the two, who fled the scene in a Cadillac.
The next night, a police officer on patrol in downtown Ogden spotted the Cadillac and attempted to pull it over, but the car took off.
"Traffic was very light and the conditions were in keeping with the Ogden Police Department's pursuit policy," assistant police chief Randy Watt said Thursday. "The vehicle stayed in the residential area and made numerous changes in direction at the same relative speeds."
At 28th Street and Jefferson Avenue, police said, the Cadillac accelerated. When it reached Washington Boulevard, police said the Cadillac ran a red light, striking a Mitsubishi Lancer driven by Blake Strebel. Both were killed instantly.
Inside the Cadillac, Mora was incapacitated. Police said Gomez ran from the crash site across a parking lot before being captured.
Mora remained in the Weber Valley Detention Center Thursday evening, but Gomez posted bail and was released from the Weber County Jail, according to Ogden Police.
Outside the Ogden Police Department on Thursday, relatives of Mora and Gomez cried over the tragic deaths — but said the police should be blamed for it.
"I'm sorry this happened," cried Stacey Mora, Gomez's mother. "I'm so sorry for the families."
The family complained that Ogden police should not have given chase but struggled to explain why Mora and Gomez fled.
"They could have just followed them instead of chasin' them down like they were Jesse James. It wouldn't have happened," sobbed Eddie Mora, the young men's grandfather. "The police were wrong."
Watt said Mora and Gomez are both known gang members with criminal histories. Mark Mora's mother, Virginia, insisted that her son "is not a bad person" and denied they were even involved in a burglary.
"Two kids lost their lives. That should not have happened. The police should not have chased them," she said Thursday.
Watt dismissed the family's criticism, saying: "We're used to those scurrilous things being said about us."
Neither the Strebel nor Jasper families said they were upset with police for what happened.
"We want to see the police get the bad guys," said David Jasper, Derek's father.
"Blake knew the challenges of law enforcement; he had studied it intensely. Our law enforcement have a tough job. We expect them to apprehend and ensure justice is served," said Tim Strebel, Blake's father. "Blake would have forgiven these two young men, I think. I feel sorry for their families. I feel sorry for these two young men that they have to live with that."
The pursuit will be reviewed internally, but Watt defended his agency saying the entire chase lasted about two minutes, not enough time for the officer's superiors to even make a decision about whether to terminate a pursuit.
"There are no indications that the officer did anything wrong," Watt said, adding that she has been returned to duty.
The Utah Highway Patrol and the Weber County attorney will investigate the crash to determine what type of charges should be filed. It could range from evading to negligent or automobile homicide, he said.
At the Jasper home, visitors came and went, offering their condolences and words of comfort. David and Jennifer Jasper were clearly shaken by the sudden and tragic loss of their son, but they reflected on his life. They described him as someone who befriended everyone and was always willing to help someone in need.
"He was the most loving and caring boy," Jennifer Jasper said.
Derek Jasper had quit school to prepare to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and Strebel worked together at a local Domino's Pizza. Blake Strebel was remembered by friends and family Thursday as a man who wanted to go into law enforcement to follow in the footsteps of his uncle who was a Utah Highway Patrol trooper and Wasatch County sheriff's deputy.
"He talked about it quite a bit," John Strebel said. "He wanted to be like him."
His uncle, Sgt. Scott Hathcock, a very well-liked and respected law enforcer, died last summer after suffering a heart attack and collapsing during a traffic stop in Provo Canyon.
Blake Strebel's family was supposed to be at Brigham Young University Thursday to attend the graduation of his older brother. Instead, the family gathered at their South Jordan home to console each other and remember Blake.
One of Tim Strebel's fondest memories of his son was the fishing trips they would take each summer in the Uintas.
"It's not that he liked fishing all that much. He said to me, 'I like being with you.' "
Susan Strebel, Blake's mother, said she and her husband had just returned from a trip and hadn't seen their son in three weeks.
"Blake was non-judgmental. He didn't look at race; he just loved people," she said with her eyes red and puffy from crying most of the day. "He was happy when he could make people happy."
Susan Strebel recalled last summer when Blake traveled to South Carolina and Georgia for a job installing home alarm systems. Many times, when he was finished with his work, he had engaged in such a warm conversation with the customers that they would invite him to dinner.
"He would call me and say, 'I made the best friends,' the people he installed for," she said with amazement.
Blake Strebel was also heavily involved in lacrosse, playing for Bingham High School until he graduated and coaching at Weber High School at the time of his death.
"He was loved by all his players and very well respected," said Weber varsity head coach Jeff Pendergast. "He was very talented in the sport of lacrosse. He had a good reputation in the league both as a coach and ex-player."100 comments on this story
Blake Strebel was head coach of the high school's freshman lacrosse team as well as an assistant coach for the JV and varsity programs.
Often pausing to wipe away tears, Pendergast said a team meeting was scheduled before practice Thursday to talk to the players about what had happened.
Funeral arrangements were still being worked out Thursday. Susan Strebel said her son was proud to be an organ donor and that those wishes would be fulfilled. She also encouraged others to make a donation to a local law enforcement agency in lieu of donating to a trust fund for Blake Strebel.
"Blake would want that," she said.