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Passenger in car that killed South Salt Lake police officer pleads guilty to manslaughter

Passenger in car that killed South Salt Lake police officer pleads guilty to manslaughter

(Qiling Wang, KSL)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The passenger in the car that hit and killed South Salt Lake police officer David Romrell pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

Jeffrey Don Black, 44, of Murray, was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony, robbery, obstructing justice, attempted burglary and failing to stop at the command of an officer.

On Friday, amended documents were filed in court charging Black with manslaughter and burglary, both second-degree felonies. Black waived his preliminary hearing on the new charges and pleaded guilty to both counts. In exchange for his pleas, the remaining charges of obstructing justice, burglary and failing to stop for police were dropped.

Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Chou Chou Collins said she has been in frequent contact with Romrell’s family as well as members of the South Salt Lake and Unified police departments, and all are in agreement to the plea deal.

About a dozen officers from those agencies sat in the courtroom Friday as Black entered his guilty pleas. They all sat around widow Elizabeth Romrell, who used a tissue to wipe away tears as Black’s defense attorneys read the facts of the case.

On Nov. 24, 2018, Black was in the passenger seat of a car driven by Felix Anthony Calata, 32, of West Valley City, when Caltata ran over Romrell, 31, causing fatal injuries. Romrell and another officer fired upon the vehicle before it struck the officer, causing fatal injuries to Calata.


Romrell was responding to a call of a burglary in progress near 3575 S. West Temple. Calata was at the address to take money that he felt was owed to him from a debt, according to charging documents. He and Black were unable to make entry and were about to leave when police ordered them to stop.

Instead, Calata hit the gas pedal and accelerated, the charges state. After his arrest, Black told police he thought they had run over a mailbox.

Black ran from the scene after Calata was shot and his car crashed, but he was later arrested.

Black will be sentenced on April 6. Judge Royal Hansen invited officers and Romrell’s family members to speak at the sentencing. Black will also have the option of addressing the court.

Elizabeth Romrell left the courtroom surrounded by officers without comment.

Black faces a sentence of one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison on each count he pleaded guilty to. Those sentences could be ordered to be served consecutively.


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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021 after many years of reporting for the Deseret News


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