Westerville Police Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering were fatally shot while walking into an apartment while responding to a “potential domestic situation,” police Chief Joe Morbitzer said at a news conference.
The cops were at the apartment eight minutes after someone at the home called 911 at 12:02 p.m., Morbitzer said.
Joering was pronounced dead at the scene while Morelli was transported to a hospital where he later died. Morelli was a 29-year veteran of the department while Joering had been with the Westerville force for 16 years.
A suspect is in custody and the Columbus Police Department is handling the investigation, officials said.
Morbitzer reiterated the officers’ commitment to their duties, calling them “two American heroes.”
“We will miss both of these officers because they were pillars in our department. They were the ones people went to,” he said.
“They literally dedicated their lives to our organization and citizens,” Morbitzer added.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Westerville native, offered condolences to the town and the officers’ immediate family.
“I am very saddened to learn of the deaths of two of my hometown police officers today. I have spoken with Westerville city leaders and pledged the full assistance of the Ohio Highway Patrol in any way they need,” he tweeted. “We will learn more soon about this tragic incident but please join me in lifting up these officers' families in prayer.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said this: “Connie and I are heartbroken by this loss. We are thinking of the officers’ families, their fellow officers and everyone involved, and we are grateful to all Ohio law enforcement who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe.”
Representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) also commented on the shootings.
“Along with my members, I’m heartbroken by this news,” said Jason Pappas, president of the FOP Capital City Lodge. “Our brothers and sisters in Central Ohio law enforcement mourn the loss of these two brave officers. We’re also praying for their families. We ask anyone who wants to help support the families to donate at GoFundMe.com/FOPLodge9HelpFund.”
“This is just another grim reminder that police work has the potential for deadly danger every day,” said Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio FOP. “That’s why the Fraternal Order of Police works to build continuous public support for the men and women who risk everything so others can be safe. Please remember these officers – and all officers – in your prayers. Please donate to help the families at GoFundMe.com/FOPLodge9HelpFund.”
The Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, also responded to the fatal shootings.
“I am heartbroken to hear the news of today's disturbing shooting in Ohio,” said Maureen Washock, a volunteer with the Ohio chapter. “Today, the dead are members of our law enforcement community – people who have dedicated their lives to making our communities safe and today were responding to a call for help. As we pray for their families and friends, we must remember that we can and should do more to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories.”
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill called the shooting an ambush.
“@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,” he wrote.
Before the Saturday shooting, at least nine officers had been killed in gun-related incidents in 2018 — up from five deaths in 2017, according to preliminary data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
At least 12 officers total have died between Jan. 1 and Feb. 10, down from 15 who died over the same period a year ago.
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