By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
South Salt Lake, UT – The family of the man who murdered a rookie police officer has reached out to his widow and child.
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 last week, 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, 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.
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.
He is survived by his wife and their four-month-old son.
When Calata’s former brother-in-law, also a U.S. Marine, heard what had happened, he reached out to Officer Romrell’s family in an open letter, KSTU reported.
“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,” Calata’s ex-brother-in-law wrote.
“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,” he continued.
“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!” Lopez wrote. “Our niece and nephew don’t have to know the horrendous things their father has done but they WILL honor your husband.”
The letter explained that Lopez’s sister had left Calata and returned home to live with her family in Texas months before Calata ran over Officer Romrell.
And it said that their whole family had been praying for the fallen officer and his family.
KSL reported that Saturday’s crash marked the second fatal car wreck for Calata in 2018.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told KSL that his office was in the process of filing manslaughter charges against Calata for the March crash that resulted in the death of his passenger, 44-year-old Danyelle Marie Jennings, when Officer Romrell was killed.
Court records showed that Calata has previously been charged with shoplifting, failure to remain at the scene of an accident, possession or use of a controlled substance, reckless driving, and driving under the influence, among other charges.
He was convicted of being in possession of a stolen vehicle, a third-degree felony, in 2005.