SOUTH SALT LAKE — For the first time in South Salt Lake City’s history, a police officer has been killed in the line of duty.
Police confirmed early Sunday Morning that officer David Romrell, 31, had died hours after he was struck by a car driven by suspects fleeing from an alleged burglary. Police Chief Jack Carruth confirmed the death during a news conference held at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.
“It’s very painful,” said an emotional Carruth as he spoke about officer Romrell, who’d been on the job for a little less than a year.
Carruth said officers had been called to a burglary at 3575 S. West Temple Saturday evening. He said as the suspects tried to flee in a car, the driver sped toward the officers, striking Romrell. Officers returned fire, killing the driver, identified as 32 year old Felix Anthony Calata of West Valley City.
Romrell was a U.S. Marine, who had served several tours, Carruth said. He said Romrell was passionate about serving his country and his community.
Dozens of police officers took part in a procession as Romrell’s body was moved Sunday morning from Intermountain Medical Center in Murray to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Taylorsville. Police agencies from across the state have been posting tributes on social media posts to Romrell, who leaves behind a wife and a four-month-old child.
State Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, who’s also a lieutenant of the Utah Highway Patrol, posted on Twitter, “Officer David Romrell of the South Salt Lake Police Dept. E.O.W. 11-24-2018. He died as a result of injuries sustained when he was struck by a car being driven by fleeing subjects that were involved in a possible burglary. God speed Officer Romrell.” Lt. Governor Spencer Cox tweeted, “This is terrible news. Our hearts are broken this morning. God bless this officer and his loved ones. And God bless all the men and women in Blue that put their lives in harms way to keep us safe.”
Police said guards will stand over Romrell’s body until his funeral.
Blue ribbons are tied around trees, and flowers have been laid at a makeshift memorial outside the South Salt Lake Police Dept. in honor of Romrell.
He was a U.S. Marine before joining the force 11 months ago.
“He was a very tactically sound officer,” said Carruth. “From what we know from the investigation, he did everything right, but was targeted by this vehicle as it fled.”
Carruth says burglary suspect Calata ran over Romrell with his car near 3575 S. West Temple, before police shot and killed him.
Romrell leaves behind a wife and 4-month-old son. Carruth described him as “very humble, soft-spoken… a very squared-away officer. Very businesslike, but very personable and very kind.”
Calata had a long criminal record. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office was screening him for charges in a police chase and car crash that killed his passenger in March.
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