2 Ohio police officers killed while responding to 911 call

Residents of Westerville offer condolences and support for the two police officers killed while responding to a 911 call Saturday. (Twitter/tellwesterville)

Two police officers were shot dead Saturday near Columbus, Ohio after responding to a 911 hang-up call involving a potential domestic violence situation.

Police Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering were shot at around noon as they walked into an apartment in Westerville, a northern suburb of Columbus. The officers went to the apartment several minutes after someone at home called 911.

Joering, 39, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Morelli, 54, was taken to a local hospital where he later died.  Morelli served the police department for 29 years, while Joering was a 16-year veteran of the Westervile force.

In an emotional press conference, police Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer described the two officers as true American heroes who gave their lives in the protection of others.

“These were two of the best we had,” said Morbitzer. “This was their calling. And they did it great. They knew how to do policing the right way, both of them. They were pillars in our department.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is from Westerville, offered condolences and support for the family of the killed policemen. “I am very saddened to learn of the deaths of two of my hometown police officers today,” Kasich wrote on Twitter. “I have spoken with Westerville city leaders and pledged the full assistance of the Ohio Highway Patrol in any way they need.”

The suspect, who was identified as Quentin Lamar Smith, was hospitalized and taken into custody. He was charged Sunday with two counts of aggravated murder. According to police records, officers have previously visited the home of the Smiths for reports of domestic violence.

The 911 call was made by the suspect’s wife, Candace Smith. During the call, only a stifled sob was heard before the line was dropped. When the 911 operator called the number, more sobbing and wailing was heard before the line was disconnected again.

In another call about 10 minutes later, Candace told the operator that she was hiding in the bushes outside their home. She expressed fear for her one-year-old daughter, who was in the apartment with her husband. She also told the operator that her husband shot the police officers.