(From left) Don McCauley, executive director of AMVETS Department of Ohio, Westerville Police Chief Joseph Morbitzer and Billy Justice of the AMVETS Department of Ohio Service Foundation, at the city's police headquarters after giving Chief Morbitzer a $3,000 donation for the families of fallen officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli. (Below, right) Officer Eric Joering and his K-9 partner, Sam, and Officer Anthony Morelli. Both photos courtesy of Westerville Police.
Don McCauley, executive director of AMVETS Department of Ohio, gave a donation totaling $3,000 from AMVETS members from all over Ohio to support the families of fallen Westerville Police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli.
Morelli and Joering were killed in the line of duty while responding to a hang-up 9-1-1 call on Saturday, Feb. 10. They were the first police officers killed in the line of duty in Westerville’s 160-year history.
"On behalf of the AMVETS Department of Ohio, the AMVETS Department of Ohio Ladies Auxiliary and the AMVETS Department of Ohio Service Foundation, we are here to present two checks totaling $3,000 to help the families of officers Joering and Morelli," said Don McCauley, executive director of AMVETS Department of Ohio as he handed the donation to Westerville Police Chief Joseph Morbitzer earlier this week.
AMVETS posts from all over Ohio contributed $916 of which the AMVETS Department of Ohio Service Foundation matched that amount rounded up to $2,000. The AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary Department of Ohio contributed $258 and the AMVETS Department of Ohio matched that plus contributed an additional $500 rounded up to $1,000.
“Thank you guys for this … It will go a long way towards helping the families,” Morbitzer said.
Morbitzer said the support for Officer Morelli and Officer Joering’s family will continue for the rest of their lives.
“We will be there for them for the long haul,” Morbitzer said.
Morbitzer said that police liasons are assigned permanently to both families.
“It’s lifetime assignment,” he said. “They will be there for father-daughter dances, graduations, weddings, sporting events…everything.”
He said both families have been getting a ton of support from the division’s spouse’s group. “They are smothering them with support,” Morbitzer remarked.
Thousands of cards drawn by Westerville students and signed by the students and community members will be sent to police departments throughout the country who attended the officers’ funerals and helped patrol the streets of the city.
“Other departments from all over really stepped up for us. We had officers staffing the building and patrolling the streets for about two weeks, so we could focus on taking care of our own,” Morbitzer said.
Local Westerville businesses, schools, community groups and individuals have been holding a variety of fundraisers to help support the families and blue ribbons and lights have adorned hundreds of homes and businesses throughout Westerville and beyond.
Blue paper hearts with messages of gratitude adorn a large window at the Westerville Library where Morelli spent a lot of his time.
The Westerville Arby's has had a tribute table set up in the format of the POW/MIA table since the tragedy.
Morelli's cruiser became a living memorial for about two weeks in front of the police division's headquarters. The cruiser and all the mementos left by thousands of people, was removed late last week. All the flowers, letters, cards, gifts, poems, candles, signs and other trinkets have been carefully cataloged and stored for future display.
Morbitzer “The support from everyone has been tremendous, just phenomenal.”
Officer Eric Joering’s K9 partner Sam will spend the rest of his days with the family of the fallen officer. Sam was officially retired by Westerville City Council at its meeting on Monday night.
“You should have seen Eric’s (Joering) eyes light up when he found out he was going to get a K-9 partner. He loved that job … He loved that dog,” Morbitzer said.
“His middle daughter, Elena, is working with the K-9 trainer, exercising him and has a logbook started. She’s doing a whole program with him,” he said.
The city of Westerville is planning on honoring Joering and Morelli with a permanent memorial at First Responders Park, located at 374 W. Main St., in Westerville.
"I fight not for glory or fame, for they are momentary. I fight for those who can't. I fight for Justice. I fight for the oppressed and the down trodden. And if I should lose my life for these just causes, then I have no regrets, For I serve to protect the innocent. It matters not where or w hen, for evil knows no boundaries. Be it fire, flood, or the threat of tyranny, I will not flee. Justice is my weapon. Faith is my shield. Hope is my armor. Cry not at my passing, for it was my Honor to fight for you. Shed not tears of sorrow, But tears of joy, for now, I stand with God."
- Jon F. Hooper