• Bethany Jones

Columbus community rallies around the families of fallen Westerville police officers

On Saturday, Feb. 10, two police officers, Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli, were shot and killed after responding to a 911 hang up call possibly related to a domestic abuse situation.

Officers Joering and Morelli were part of the police force for 16 and 29 years, respectively, making them familiar faces to the Westerville community. Principal Trond Smith was a friend of Morelli, having worked in Westerville for over 10 years.

“Officer Morelli was as good a cop as you would find. He loved his job, loved being part of the Westerville community and took the time to establish relationships and build trust with those he worked to serve and protect. And as good a cop as Tony was, he was a better person. He and Officer Joering will be missed terribly,” Smith said.

Officer Joering had a wife and four daughters, and Officer Morelli had a wife and two children, according to nytimes.com. Since the shooting, the Westerville community has come together to support the families and friends of both officers. Even President Donald Trump mentioned the incident on Twitter, offering his condolences.

“Having worked in Westerville for 11 years, I know that when things like this happen, that community pulls together and supports each other. It was amazing to see the support from surrounding communities and throughout the entire country,” Smith said.

Across the state, houses can be seen adorned with blue lights as tribute to these officers. Many students of the Olentangy school district wore blue to school as an indication of support. Strangers have donated thousands of dollars in order to support the families. On Friday, Feb. 16, thousands of people, police officers and normal citizens alike, came to pay their respects to the two men before their burials.

“At the end of the day, the support for Westerville was unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it, I thought it was great. It made me proud to keep being an officer,” School Resource Officer, Deputy Robert Martin said.

With police being very present in Westerville and the surrounding communities, an incident such as this one struck citizens as extremely shocking and upsetting.

“I cried a little bit. I was pretty upset. I didn’t really know them, but one of them was an SRO, and we have a state SRO conference in the summertime, so I spoke to those guys because they were from Westerville. It was a situation that happened in my town, it wasn’t in my backyard; it was in my front yard. It's like a part of me went and died with them. That could have been me, just as easily, just like that. It could have been any of my brothers in blue. I took it pretty hard. It just wasn’t supposed to happen like that,” Martin said.

According to Martin, it takes a special kind of person to become a police officer. They have to be very committed to helping others, and to protect the people who can’t do so for themselves. Law enforcement also has “a lot of really intelligent, educated people.”

“A good police officer is courageous, compassionate, and committed to protecting their communities. They are fair-minded, patient, and willing to take the time to invest in building productive relationships in the areas they serve,” Smith said.

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