WESTERVILLE, Ohio – Two veteran officers were shot while responding to a 911 hang-up were real heroes, because they spent their lives working for others and their community, a police chief told mourners Friday.
Hundreds of officers and deputies in blue and black uniforms from the entire country busy in a church for the officers of the funeral. Many watched the services on television in an overflow gym next door.
Officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, were fatally shot last Saturday after entering a townhome, while answering a domestic dispute. They returned fire, wounding the 30-year-old Quentin Smith.
Smith, who is charged with aggravated murder, remains hospitalized and is expected to survive. He has not yet had a hearing yet and it is unclear whether a lawyer is appointed.
For the services started on Friday, mourners filed past a pair of flag-draped coffins in St. Paul Catholic Church in Westerville, a suburb of Columbus.
A uniformed officer ran Off, police dog in his crate. The officer saluted while the dog turned around, and with the face to the chest for a moment.
The republican Gov. John Kasich and his wife, Karen, attended the services, sitting near the altar with other state leaders. The Kasichs live in a nearby township.
Westerville police chief Joe Morbitzer said both the officers were heroes long before last weekend.
“It was not this event, and it was not this day,” the head of the police said. “It was their whole life.”
Both men were married, with children. Joering, a 16-year police veteran, has three young daughters.
Its predecessor, the ds. Kyle Hammond of Adventure Church in Lewis Center, said Joering would do anything for his family, including allowing girls to style his hair and paint his nails.
“I heard he drew the line at make-up,” Hammond said.
Morelli was a 30-year veteran with two children, including a daughter who is planning a wedding this summer.
Westerville police chaplain James Meacham said Morelli was always laughing and thought, how much he enjoyed life.
“He went to heaven and partied,” Meacham said.
After the services, a procession of police vehicles stretching for several miles are slowly making their way through the streets of the city lined with people waving the American flag and wearing a blue wire in the support of the officers.
One of the hundreds who waited in the cold and rain in the church for the view was Zach Youmans, 24, of Westerville, a friend of Morelli’s son, Chris.
“Whether you knew any of them or not, they still affect your life, or you passed through Westerville or live here,” Youmans said.
The patrol cars from Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, West Virginia, Michigan and many other states, filled the church parking lot.
Matthew Pfau, 27, a guard member with the University of Maryland-College Park police department, said the overwhelming show of support for the police was the biggest he had seen.
“Law enforcement is just one big family. It is a brotherhood, sisterhood. There is really no other band like it,” Pfau said. “Situations like this are far too many today.”