By Jeffery C. Mays, The New York Times
Two police officers in a city near Columbus, Ohio, were shot and killed Saturday while responding to a 911 hangup call involving potential domestic abuse, the authorities said.
Chief Joe Morbitzer of the Westerville Police Department said the officers, Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, had responded at 12:10 p.m., eight minutes after the call, about a “potential domestic situation.”
“As they went into the apartment they were immediately met with gunfire, and both officers were shot,” Chief Morbitzer said at a news conference on Saturday afternoon.
He paused several times to choke back tears.
(Two police officers were fatally shot after responding to a 911 call in Westerville, Ohio, on Saturday, authorities say. Courtesy of CBS News and YouTube. Posted on Feb 10, 2018)
Officer Joering, a 16-year veteran of the department, died at the scene.
Officer Morelli, a 29-year veteran, was transported to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus in critical condition and later died.
Officer Joering had a wife and four daughters, and Officer Morelli had a wife and two children.
“These were two of the best we had,” the chief said. “This was their calling, and they did it right.”
He called the officers “true American heroes.”
(The Westerville Division of Police confirmed two officers were shot and killed Saturday afternoon on Crosswind Drive. Courtesy of NBC4 WCMH-TV Columbus and YouTube. Posted on Feb 10, 2018)
Quentin Lamar Smith, 30, was named a suspect in the shootings.
He was wounded when the officers returned fire and was taken to a hospital, Christa Dickey, a spokeswoman for the city of Westerville, said in a phone interview. His condition was unknown, she said.
Officials said officers had previously responded to calls about domestic disputes at the property.
The shooting occurred in a condominium community with about 500 residents on Crosswind Drive, according to those who live in the area.
“It’s very sad. All you can do is pray at this point,” a resident, Charline Garrabrant, 75, said in a phone interview. The shooting occurred behind her garage.
Ms. Garrabrant and her husband, Karl Garrabrant, a retired fire chief for nearby Minerva Park, did not hear any gunfire, she said.
They did not realize anything had happened until they saw police cars parked nearby and turned on their police scanner to learn more.
“Around here it’s always been pretty quiet,” she said. “I mean, the police have been here several times for mild disturbances, but not really close to where this happened.”
Chief Morbitzer said there had been an outpouring of support from around the country.
“They knew how to do policing the right way, both of them,” he said.
“Both gave their lives for the protection of others, and that’s what they lived and breathed.”
Outside the brick facade of the officers’ station on Saturday night, blue candles formed a ring around a makeshift memorial. A stream of mourners added to a growing pile of flowers.
Residents remembered the officers as professional, courteous and caring.
“I’ve been in their cruiser a time or two,” said Chip Moon Jr., who visited with his wife, Heather, to pray and listen to a tribute. “I knew both of them for numerous years, and they were definitely heroes.”
James P. O’Neill, the commissioner of the New York Police Department, said on Twitter that it sounded as if the officers were “ambushed.”
.@WestervillePD confirms 2 officers ambushed & killed today after responding to a 911 hang-up; fired upon when they arrived at the address. Everyone should be as upset about this as America’s law enforcement officers are. No cop, anywhere, “signed up” to be murdered. #NYPD pic.twitter.com/JZcso4cguN
— Commissioner O’Neill (@NYPDONeill) February 10, 2018
“Everyone should be as upset about this as America’s law enforcement officers are. No cop, anywhere, ‘signed up’ to be murdered,” he wrote.
With the deaths of the two Westerville officers on Saturday, at least five police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty this week.
Officer Chase Maddox, 26, of the Locust Grove, Ga., police department was shot and killed on Friday as he was trying to serve a warrant with two other officers. The suspect was killed.
(Locust Grove Police Officer Chase Maddox, 26, was killed in the line of duty when he responded for backup to two Henry County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were serving a failure to appear warrant. Courtesy of WSB-TV and YouTube. Posted on Feb 9, 2018)
The suspect opened fire on the three men, killing Maddox and injuring Deputies Michael Corley and Ralph Sidwell “Sid” Callaway.
Mr. Maddox was survived by a child and his pregnant wife.
In Richardson, Tex., Officer David Sherrard, 37, was shot and killed on Wednesday while responding to a disturbance at an apartment complex.
The suspect was believed to have fatally shot an acquaintance before firing at police officers as they entered the apartment.
Officer Sherrard, a married father of two daughters, was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department’s 63-year history.
Deputy Sheriff Micah Flick, 34, of the El Paso County sheriff’s office in Colorado Springs, Colo., was shot and killed on Monday when a car theft suspect fired an automatic weapon at officers, according to the authorities.
He was survived by his wife and 7-year-old twins.
Editor’s Note: The families of Westerville Officers Joering, and Morelli are in our thoughts and prayers, as are those of Locust Grove Police Officer Chase Maddox, Richardson Officer David Sherrard, and El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick.
We are in full agreement with Commissioner O’Neill. Everyone should be outraged over these tragic losses to our communities. We offer the respective departments our heartfelt condolences.