Two Ohio police officers were shot and killed near Columbus on Saturday, after responding to a 911 hang up. The suspect was also wounded in the incident and is currently being treated in a nearby hospital.
Officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, arrived at the scene of the 911 call only eight minutes after the hang up.
“As they went into the apartment they were immediately met with gunfire, and both officers were shot,” Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said in a press conference on Saturday.
Joering was killed at the scene in the ensuing shootout, and Morelli died while undergoing surgery at Ohio State University Medical Center. The two officers had a combined 45 years of service to their community in law enforcement.
“These were two of the best we had. This was their calling, and they did it right. They knew how to do policing the right way, both of them,” Morbitzer said while fighting to hold back tears. “Both gave their lives for the protection of others, and that’s what they lived and breathed.”
He went on to call the officers “true American heroes.”
The suspect, Quentin Lamar Smith, 30, was wounded when the two officers returned fire, according to Christa Dickey, a spokeswoman for the city of Westerville. His condition is not currently known.
The shootout took place in a small condominium community with around 500 residents, according to Charline Garrabrant, 75, who claimed the incident took place just behind her garage.
“It’s very sad. All you can do is pray at this point,” she said.
The City’s Twitter account first announced the death of one officer, then posted again shortly thereafter to clarify that the city had indeed lost two officers in the shooting incident.
“The City of #Westerville suffered a tremendous loss today. @WestervillePD Officer Anthony Morelli and Officer Eric Joering were killed in the line of duty. Please keep our first responders and the officers’ families in your thoughts and prayers.”
Sen. Kevin Bacon also issued a statement regarding the incident on Twitter:
“Our hearts and prayers are with the Westerville officers, their friends, families and the Westerville Police Department at this difficult time. Now is one of those times and we — as a community — must rally behind the families and fellow officers.”
Residents of the community have been piling flowers around a makeshift memorial set up in front the town’s police station, with mourners sharing stories of their interactions with the two officers.
“I’ve been in their cruiser a time or two,” said Chip Moon Jr., who came to pay his respects along with his wife. “I knew both of them for numerous years, and they were definitely heroes.”
Officer Joering is survived by a wife and four daughters. Officer Morelli had a wife and two daughters.
Image courtesy of the Westerville Police Department