National News

A solemn procession, then vigils mark the deaths of Ohio officers

Posted February 12, 2018 10:57 a.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2018 3:01 a.m. EST

— Central Ohio was in mourning Monday as people lined the streets to watch a somber police procession deliver the bodies of two slain officers to their respective funeral homes.

Westerville Officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, were fatally shot Saturday as they entered an apartment in their city, a northern suburb of Columbus.

The suspect, Quentin Lamar Smith, was hospitalized and taken into custody, police spokeswoman Christa Dickey said.

On Sunday, Smith was charged with two counts of aggravated murder, prosecutors said. If he survives, the case would be eligible for the death penalty, Prosecuting Attorney Ron O'Brien said in a statement. A 2008 burglary with firearm conviction barred him from possessing a firearm, O'Brien said.

The Westerville deaths shook the populace and resonated in the halls of power -- in Columbus, the state capital, and in Washington, D.C.

Gov. John Kasich, who is from Westerville, pledged his support for the town and its police department and ordered that US and Ohio flags be flown at half-staff at all public buildings and grounds throughout the state.

President Donald Trump said Sunday on Twitter that he spoke to Kasich and expressed "condolences and prayers to all for the horrible shooting of two great police officers" from Westerville.

"This is a true tragedy!" the President said.

Westerville officers on Monday escorted the bodies of Morelli and Joering from the Franklin County Coroner's Office in Columbus to Westerville

Hundreds turned out and paid tribute to the men, CNN affiliate WBNS reported. Joering had been with the department for 17 years. Morelli was a 30-year veteran of the force, police Chief Joe Morbitzer said.

Morelli was taken to Moreland Funeral Home and Joering was escorted to Hill Funeral Home, both in Westerville.

According to the city, vigils have been set on Monday, one at 8 p.m. on the Otterbein University campus in Westerville and another at 8 p.m. at The Ohio State University.

A vigil has been set up for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at First Responders Park in Westerville.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

The officers were responding to a 911 hangup call involving potential domestic abuse. The 911 caller was identified as the suspect's wife, Candace Smith.

In a 911 call about noon Saturday from Smith's phone, a stifled sob is heard before the line abruptly drops, according to recordings released by the city of Westerville.

When an operator calls the number back, more sobs and wails can be heard before the line drops again. In another call about 10 minutes later, Candace Smith tells the operator she is hiding in the bushes outside their home. She expresses fear for her 1-year-old daughter, who she says is in the apartment with her husband.

"Please help, please help, please help," she cries. "My husband ... he shot the police officers. Please hurry up."

Officers were dispatched to the Smith home after a record search indicated that officers visited the address in 2017, the recordings reveal.