SOUTH SALT LAKE — Police on Monday arrested a man in the weekend killing of a South Salt Lake police officer.
Jeffrey Don Black, 43, of Taylorsville, was arrested for investigation of murder, burglary, obstruction of justice and other charges, police said.
Saturday night, officer David Romrell, 31, who had been with the department for 11 months and previously served several tours of duty as a U.S. Marine, was killed while investigating a burglary in progress. Felix Anthony Calata, 32, of West Valley City, intentionally hit Romrell with his car as he attempted to get away, according to police.
South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller said Romrell's widow was shocked when Black was released from custody Sunday after questioning. Based partially on her pleas, police gave the case another look and collected more evidence, Keller said.
Unified police collected additional, undisclosed evidence that placed Black in the car at the time Romrell was hit. Unified's violent crimes unit made the arrest.
As officers Monday evening escorted Black, his hands cuffed behind his back, from Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, Black told reporters he feels sorry for the slain officer.
"I didn't know it was a cop. I thought it was a mail box," Black said when officers stopped him outside the building, giving reporters a chance to ask questions.
Black said he had first met Calata two or three days before the incident. At the time of the alleged robbery, the two had been trying to "make some money" from a person who allegedly owed Calata, Black said.
Calata was shot and killed by police. It was unknown whether Romrell fired any of the shots that struck Calata before being fatally wounded.
Earlier Monday, South Salt Lake police officers returned to duty for the first time since Romrell's death, passing the car of their fallen brother in blue, which has now been turned into a memorial.
South Salt Lake police officers were given Sunday off to mourn. Officers from several surrounding agencies handled the department's calls that day.
On Monday, the city's officers resumed their regular patrol duties at 6 a.m. Parked in front of the department is Romrell's patrol car, which has now become a memorial. A framed picture of Romrell was placed in the windshield and a blue ribbon wrapped around the hood.
Members of the community on Sunday left flowers at the police department, hung blue ribbons on the trees outside and lined the curb with American flags to show their support for Romrell and the department.
About 9 p.m. Sunday, Romrell's body was moved with a police escort from the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office to Larkin Mortuary, 260 E. South Temple, where it will remain until his funeral. An honor guard will watch over his body around the clock until he is buried.
Funeral plans were expected to be confirmed Monday night. A funeral will likely be held next week, according to police.
Romrell is survived by his wife and a 4-month-old son. The Utah 1033 Foundation announced it would be delivering a check for $25,000 to Romrell's widow. The 1033 Foundation, named after the Utah police code for "officer needs help immediately," was established in 2011. Families of officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty are presented with $25,000 within 24 hours of that officer's death.
"We know that this is a difficult time for the family. We encourage everyone to do all they can to support them and to honor officer Romrell and his memory," said Dave Kaufman, the foundation's president.
A GoFundMe campaign was set up Sunday to help raise money for Romrell's family.2 comments on this story
Court records show Black has faced several criminal charges in Utah dating back to 2001.
In August, Black was charged with possession or use of a controlled substance, driving on a suspended or revoked license based on a prior conviction, along with other misdemeanor charges.
In 2006, Black pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a financial card or ATM. In 2011, Black pleaded guilty to possession or use of a controlled substance.
In 2001, Black pleaded guilty to attempted forgery and was sentenced to serve one year in jail.