Family of suspect in officer’s death writes open letter to his grieving family

Local News

SOUTH SALT LAKE (ABC4 News) – The family of the suspect who died after running down a South Salt Lake police officer and killing him has reached out to the officer’s family in an open letter posted to Facebook. 

Officer David Romrell, 31, died Saturday evening after being hit by a car driven by Felix Anthony Calata, a convicted felon who was at the time being investigated for Felony DUI and Automobile Homicide for an incident that occurred in March of this year. 

Calata, 31, was shot and killed by police Saturday. 

In the open letter, the ex-brother and sister-in-law of Felix Calata expressed their deepest condolences to the wife and four-month-old child of Officer Romrell.

Below is what the pair wrote on Facebook: 

“An open letter to Mrs. Romrell, from the ex brother and sister in law of the man who killed your husband.

“Thanksgiving weekend was winding down for us like most families’. We were together as a family, nieces, nephews, siblings and in-laws! With A lot of laughs, new memories and bellies full of turkey, thanksgiving 2018 was a good time.

“Saturday night we went to bed just as any other night, when suddenly the shrieks, screams and cries of our sister tore through our peaceful home. ‘Felix, is dead!’ She screamed! We didn’t know the details yet of what had happened but we knew Felix, had been on a downward spiral for a long time now. We knew he wasn’t the same person who started dating my sister, 12 years ago who was romantic and funny.

“After many run ins with the law and let downs, my sister decided to leave her husband and take their two children away to Texas so they’d be safe. She hasn’t heard from him in months and when she got that phone call in the middle of the night her heart broke for her children, Only 6 and 10 years old.

“In contrast, soon after we heard about your husband. A good man who has served his country. Who was badly injured and fighting for his life. Immediately, our whole family’s energy focused on your husband and your family. We prayed for his life. That God may spare him from this senseless act. It was to no avail and your husband, a man who had a brand new baby at home, Who, went into work that day just as he did any other day, never came back.

“My name is Manuel Alejandro Lopez and David Romrell is my brother in arms. I, too am a marine veteran and it hurt me to see a brother fall in such a way. Without meaning to politicize this ordeal, we want to reach out and let you know, we are with you. We know what Felix, did was inexcusable. His mental illness took over and we never got him back. Felix’s, kids are here in the room as I write this and they are also, innocent lives that have forever been changed. We want you and your baby to know, our sister and our family will make sure to raise them, knowing that your husband, was the “good guy!” Your husband, died a HERO! Our niece and nephew don’t have to know the horrendous things their father has done but they WILL honor your husband.

“We are all heartbroken by this and we are hurting too. If there is anything you may need from us to help you find peace, please reach out. Your precious baby doesn’t deserve to be left without a father. We are very sorry for your loss.

“As this Thanksgiving weekend wraps up, we hope everyone remains thankful for their families, for our police force and our military!

Sincerely,
Claudia & Manuel Lopez
Semper Fi brother Romrell”

In March of this year, Calata and the woman he referred to as his girlfriend were parked on the side of the road in Salt Lake County. An officer with the Utah Department of Natural Resources approached Calata because he was picking up tires on the side of the road. At the time, he told the officer he used the tire materials to make extra money. 

The officer noticed drug paraphernalia in Calata’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, including a pipe. When the officer asked for I.D., Calata explained he did not have identification and was about to hand the officer the pipe when he sped off, according to a search warrant obtained by ABC4 News. 

Later, according to the warrant, Calata ran a red light at the intersection of California Avenue and Bangerter Highway, crashing into another vehicle. Both Calata and his girlfriend, Danyelle Jennings, were ejected. Jennings died on the scene and Calata was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. 

According to Sgt. Jalaine Hawkes with Utah Highway Patrol, Calata was set to be formally charged with Felony DUI Causing Injury or Death before he was killed. Hawkes said investigators were awaiting additional evidence from UDOT before charging him. It was unclear Monday why Calata was out of jail. 

Initially, investigators were planning to charge Calata with Automobile Homicide, but instead pursued the lesser charge of Felony DUI.

Hawkes said the pair were high on meth at the time of the incident. 

Calls to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office had not yet been returned as of Monday morning. 

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