SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah, June 30, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The man who was a passenger in the vehicle that struck and killed South Salt Lake Police Officer David Romrell in November 2018 has been sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Jeffrey Don Black, 44, was a passenger on Nov. 24, 2018 in the fleeing car that struck Romrell, one of several officers who had responded to the scene of an attempted burglary.
Black has been ordered by 3rd District Judge Royal Hansen to serve two at the minimum and up to 30 years in the Utah State Prison.
Black, of Murray, pleaded guilty in January to reduced charges of manslaughter and burglary, both second-degree felonies. He originally faced a charge of murder, a first-degree felony.
The other charges he faced — obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, burglary, a third-degree felony, and failure to stop at the command of law enforcement, a class A misdemeanor — were dismissed.
The car’s driver, Felix Anthony Calata, 32 was shot by officers on scene and died.
A probable cause statement stated that on Nov. 24, 2018, South Salt Lake police were dispatched to a burglary in progress at an apartment at 3575 S. West Temple. The female resident reported at least two people attempting to break into her residence.
“Upon the officers’ arrival, they encountered a black Chevrolet Impala driving toward the parking lot entrance,” the statement said. “The police officers yelled at the driver to stop.
“The driver accelerated towards officer David Romrell before striking him and dragging him several feet. Officer Romrell later died from his injuries. Two male occupants fled from the crashed vehicle and were later taken into custody. The males were identified as Felix Calata and Jeffrey Black. Calata was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds.”
Black was located hiding inside a boat near the crashed vehicle, the statement said. Although he did not comply with commands by officers to exit the boat, he was released after being interviewed.
On Nov. 26, Black contacted an officer to request the return of personal property, and agreed to answer more questions.
“Post-Miranda, Black admitted to going with Felix Calata to the address of occurrence to ‘tax’ (take money from) (the resident),” the statement said. “Black admitted at one point to driving the vehicle during the burglary and admitted to assisting Calata in getting a crowbar from the truck, which Calata used to try to pry open the door.”
Black told police that he and Calata “were unable to gain entry and that he told Calata it was taking too long.” the statement said. “The two were leaving when they saw police lights and heard officers yelling, ‘Police, stop!’
“Calata stated ‘Fuck it,’ and accelerated in an attempt to flee, driving towards the police officers,” the statement said. “Black stated he believed they ran over a mailbox.”
Black recalled that police fired shots as the vehicle as Calata continued to drive.
“Calata got out of the vehicle while it was still moving, and Black steered the vehicle into a pole,” the statement said. “Black then fled on foot. Black admitted to running from the police and hiding in a boat for more than an hour to avoid capture.”
Police determined Calata was the driver because the location of bullet holes in the vehicle matched his wounds, the statement says.
On Nov. 25, an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s office determined Romrell’s cause of death was blunt-force trauma, and his manner of death was homicide.