2 Ohio police officers killed
By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and MARK GILLISPIE
WESTERVILLE, Ohio (AP)
Two Ohio police officers responding to a 911 hang-up call were fatally shot Saturday after entering an apartment in a Columbus suburb, and a suspect was taken into custody.
Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said officer Eric Joering, 39, died at the scene and his colleague, Anthony Morelli, 54, died at a local hospital.
Police have identified a 30-year-old man as a suspect in the shootings and released reports showing authorities have had several dealings with him, some involving domestic violence.
Westerville police late Saturday confirmed that the suspect is Quentin Lamar Smith.
Fifteen Ohio officers have been killed in the past five years, including, most recently, Girard Police Officer Justin A. Leo, who was shot to death Oct. 21.
Morbitzer said the officers were responding to a “potential domestic situation.” A neighbor who heard the gunfire said it happened at a home where the occupants were “always arguing and fighting.”
“The officers gave their lives in defense of others,” Morbitzer said during a news conference, struggling to keep his emotions in check. He called them “true American heroes.”
Police provided no details about the suspect during a brief news conference. The Columbus Dispatch reported the suspect was wounded and treated at a hospital.
The Columbus Police Department is investigating the shootings.
Republican Gov. John Kasich, who lives with his family in a nearby township, tweeted that he was “very saddened to learn of the deaths of two of my hometown police officers.” He asked Ohio residents to join him in “lifting up these officers’ families in prayer.”
President Donald Trump tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with the two police officers, their families, and everybody at the (at)WestervillePD.”
Joering was a 16-year police veteran and Morelli was a 30-year veteran.
“These were two of the best we have,” said Morbitzer. “This was their calling.”
He added, that they “both gave their life for the protection of others and that’s what they lived and breathed.”
Trea Horne, 17, told the AP he was upstairs in the townhome he shares with his mother when he heard five or six gunshots early Saturday afternoon. He said he came downstairs and saw police cars racing to a townhome directly across the street.
A couple had moved into the home about eight months ago, he said. “They’re always arguing and fighting,” said Horne, who graduated from Westerville South High School in December.
Jennifer Ripperger, 46, said her neighborhood of townhomes has a mix of owners and renters. She said she heard police pulling up Saturday and watched officers nearly drag firefighters toward the residence where the officers had been shot.
“I’ve never known anything like this to happen,” said Chad Temple, 32, who lives directly behind the townhome where the shooting happened. “It just kind of surprises me (that) in Westerville this happened.”
Westerville, on the northeast side of Columbus, is a suburb of about 39,000 people.