Why was suspect released in officer death investigation?

Local News

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) The suspect arrested for killing a South Salt Lake Officer David Romrell is being held without bail in the Salt Lake County jail.

In documents filed Tuesday, Jeffery Black faces nine charges, including aggravated murder, assault against a police officer, and obstruction of justice. 

“I’m sorry to the officer,” Black said to reporters after his arrest.

Police believe Black was a passenger in the car that hit Officer Romrell after a burglary call. Black is accused of running away after the driver, Felix Calata, was shot and killed by police. 

“I didn’t know it was a cop, I thought it was a mailbox,” Black said.

Arrest papers show Black was interviewed by police Saturday after hiding in a boat for over an hour. Police released the 43-year-old, telling ABC4 News at the time there not enough evidence for an arrest during a complicated investigation. 

“For whatever reason at that time at that point in the investigation, whether or not they could put him in the vehicle, who knows, but the decision was made to interview him and release him,” South Salt Lake Executive Officer Gary Keller said. 

The probable cause statement shows that police learned Black gave false information regarding his involvement during the initial interview.

Officer Keller added that the about-face came, in part, to pleading by Officer Romrell’s wife. 

“She was very, very disappointed that Jeff Black was still out there on the street. I think it heightened our concerns and every body’s concerns, even the district attorney’s,” Officer Keller said.

Police arrested Black after he contacted them to get some of his belongings returned. 

Black said he met Calata a few days before Officer Romrell’s death. He told reporters they were together to get money back from an unnamed woman. 

Arrest records show Black admitted to going with Calata to collect a debt. At one point during a burglary, he told police Calata used a crowbar to get inside a business. 

When police arrived, Black said he heard police officers yelling, “Police! Stop!” He then said he heard Calata say “(expletive) it” and accelerated toward standing officers in an attempt to flee. 

Black said shots were fired at the vehicle. At one point, Calata is believed to have stepped out of the car and Black steered the vehicle until it crashed into a pole. 
 
Black’s criminal history is lengthy; he’s been charged with 21 felonies since 2001. Most of the charges involve forgery or drugs. 

Most recently in August, Black was pulled over for driving erratically and police found drugs in the vehicle. He was scheduled to be in court on those charges on December 6. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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