South Salt Lake, UT – South Salt Lake Police Department Officer David Romrell was murdered in the line of duty on Saturday, when a suspect intentionally ran into him with a vehicle while fleeing the scene of a burglary.
The fatal encounter began at approximately 5:30 p.m., when officers responded to a burglary in progress at a business on South West Temple, South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Carruth said during a press conference on Sunday, according to KSL.
Officer Romrell, 31, and a second officer confronted two suspects while they were attempting to flee in a vehicle, at which point the driver, 32-year-old Felix Calata, slammed his car into Officer Romrell, the Deseret News reported.
“He did everything right but was targeted by this vehicle as it fled,” Chief Carruth said.
Both officers opened fire on Calata, who was fatally struck during the encounter, South Salt Lake Police Department spokesperson Gary Keller told ABC News.
The second suspect fled the scene on foot, and was later apprehended by officers and police K9s, the Deseret News reported.
Unified Police Sergeant Melody Gray said the second individual was released after questioning, and that there was no evidence that he had committed a crime.
Officer Romrell was rushed to Intermountain Medical Center, where he underwent surgery.
“[He] was unable to recover from his injuries,” Chief Carruth said during the press conference, according to KSL.
Officer Romrell, a U.S. Marine veteran who served several tours, had been with the South Salt Lake Police Department for less than 11 months.
Chief Carruth described him as a soft-spoken, humble man who was “very kind” and “very squared away,” the Deseret News reported.
“David, in just 11 months you built bonds with your brother’s and sister’s of SSLPD that can never be broken,” Chief Carruth wrote in a Facebook post, according to the paper. “You were taken from us way before your time, but will forever remain in our hearts.”
“We will forever honor you and miss you,” the chief continued. “You were a protector of our country and our community, you are our hero!”
Hundreds of law enforcement officers escorted his body to the medical examiner’s office in Taylorsville on Sunday, where he will be “watched over by officers until his funeral,” the chief said, according to KSL.
Officer Romrell is the first line-of-duty death in the history of the department.
“As much as we prepare or know the risk of this job, we’re not prepared for this,” Chief Carruth said. “It’s taken us all by surprise. It’s been very, very painful.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert described Officer Romrell as “one of our finest,” and said that flags be flown at half-staff on the day of the fallen officer’s funeral, KSL reported.
“He was exemplary in every way, and I feel humbled by the service he gave his country as a Marine, as well as the service he gave our communities here in Utah,” Herbert told the news outlet on Sunday. “We mourn with and for Officer Romrell’s dear family, and we pray that they may find peace in the midst of this heartbreak.”
Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox also expressed his support for Officer Romrell’s family and colleagues.
“Our hearts are broken this morning,” Cox wrote in a Twitter post. “God bless this officer and his loved ones. And God bless all the men and women in Blue that put their lives in harm’s way to keep us safe.”
Officer Romrell leaves behind his wife and four-month-old son, the Deseret News reported.
A fundraising campaign established to help his widow in the wake of his murder had raised over $21,000 as of Monday morning.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of South Salt Lake Police Department Officer David Romrell, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Officer David Romrell, your life mattered.