WEST VALLEY CITY — As friends and comrades remembered fallen South Salt Lake police officer David Romrell at his funeral, they painted the picture of a "warrior" with a great sense of humor.
And throughout Wednesday's service, proof of his strength shone through in his wife, Elizabeth.
Romrell always spoke to his wife "kindly, warmly and respectfully," according to a love letter Elizabeth Romrell wrote for her husband after his passing. A family friend, Michelle Watts, read the letter aloud during the service.
According to the letter, David Romrell prepared his wife emotionally to endure the loss she is now facing. He saw her strength even when she didn't, Watts read.
As bagpipes rang through the Maverik Center at the beginning of the service, Elizabeth Romrell gracefully carried the couple's 4-month-old son, following her husband's flag-draped casket to the front of hundreds of mourners.
"Our son will know that you would do everything to protect him, ultimately giving your life to make sure that he was safe," Elizabeth Romrell wrote in her letter.
"You meant everything to me in this lifetime. You loved me for me and you loved us for us."
She said when the two first met, they saw each other from across a room but were too shy to talk to each other at first. When they did talk, the moment was life-changing.
"At that moment, I knew that I had met my best friend and the love of my life," Watts read.
In lighter memories shared in the letter, Elizabeth Romrell wrote that her husband could "rampage a bag of chips" and loved "prancing around in silkies," revelations that drew chuckles from the crowd.
The loss is also great for Romrell's fellow officers and Marines.
"This is the greatest, most profound pain I've ever dealt with," South Salt Lake Police Deputy Chief Dwayne Ruth told reporters before the funeral.
"What struck me about David, aside from the fact that he truly was just a noble warrior, was how humble he was … and lived a life of public service. Today we honor and are proud, so proud, to take part in this event," Ruth said.
"We're a brotherhood. I think that we've established that, especially in Utah, that in times like these, it's recognized by the public that we come together," he said, adding that police officers, military members and firefighters all share a similar commitment to helping others.
"Officer David Romrell will never be forgotten."
On Nov. 24, Romrell was hit by a fleeing vehicle and killed. He is the first South Salt Lake officer killed in the line of duty.
The fatal confrontation happened when Romrell and another officer responded to a report of a burglary in progress at 3575 S. West Temple. As officers arrived, two men attempted to drive away from the business complex. The driver of the vehicle then accelerated toward the officers, hitting Romrell.
The driver, Felix Anthony Calata, 32, of West Valley City, was shot and killed. A passenger, Jeffrey Don Black, 43, of Taylorsville, is in jail awaiting charges.
In his remarks, South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Carruth said that while Romrell was in the hospital, hundreds of officers came to show their support, and are still showing their support. Officers at the department have received an "outpouring of love" from the community, he said.
"In David's last stand, he was a warrior. … He fought like a police officer. He fought like a Marine," Carruth said.
During their last conversation, Romrell told Carruth how excited he was to be a father. Officers will share the many memories they have of Romrell with his wife and son, Carruth said.
"When an officer's heart is larger than their courage, there shall be no other guardian worthier of wearing a badge," according to Carruth, words he said he wrote for Romrell.
Before becoming a South Salt Lake police officer, Romrell, 31, served several tours of duty as a U.S. Marine.
Master Sgt. Scott Hall, who served with Romrell in the Marines, said that during a deployment, up to 12 Marines had to work together in a small office. During that time, Hall and Romrell got to know each other.
"No matter how much negativity came down with adverse things that we faced, it didn't matter. He was ready to deal with it," Hall said.
Romrell "didn't get nervous when he was talking to senior leadership. Most people kind of freeze up," Hall said.
He said when Romrell returned to Utah, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do and would call Hall to run ideas by him and ask for advice. Hall said police service "was very fitting for him and what he wanted to do."
"He always wanted to help people," Hall said. "He meant a lot to his Marines. He will forever be missed by his brothers in arms."
According to a statement from the South Salt Lake Police Department, Romrell loved motorcycles and his truck, the outdoors and smoked sausages with barbecue sauce. He and his wife talked about retiring in Montana.
His co-workers called him the "inventor of skinny jeans because before skinny jeans were a thing he would have his mom, and/or friends sew his pants so they were skinny," the department wrote.
In a video played as hundreds of mourners poured into the arena before Wednesday's service began, his colleagues, friends and family members described him as a selfless friend and hero who loved children. One of his nieces remembered him as "always happy and smiley, and always so outgoing, and that's what I love about him the most."
Following the remarks, a Marine yelled, "Marines, fall in," and those in attendance hurried down the steps to the arena floor to do 10 push ups in Romrell's honor.
After the service, Romrell's casket was escorted by a motorcade procession through the city where he served, where it was greeted by solemn citizens and appreciative students before heading to Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy.
Snow blanketed the cemetery and flags lined the roads, swaying in the wind. Fog obscured the view of nearby mountains while hundreds of officers in an array of uniforms lined up to pay their respects. A line of officers flanked both sides of the path as Elizabeth Romrell, with baby Jackson held in a car seat, and family members made their way to the cemetery's mausoleum.2 comments on this story
During the ceremony, Marines performed the traditional final salute and a lone bagpiper left his line of musicians and wandered out into the snow, playing a mournful tune. As the ceremony ended, three helicopters flew over the crowd.
In Romrell's end of watch call, a tradition in which the police operator issues a last call for a fallen officer over the police radio system, the operator echoed what many others said during the day.
"He taught us about bravery, strength, and honor. … He impacted all who knew him, and the void he leaves behind will never truly be filled," the operator said.
"We will always remember him, and we will continue to serve in a way that will honor him and the person he is."