The 911 call came into the suburban Ohio police department of Westerville at about noon Saturday. No one spoke, but a woman could be heard crying before the phone was hung up. Two police officers were sent to investigate and within minutes of arriving on the scene were shot. Both officers — Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54 — died, leaving behind wives and children and a stunned community.
“These officers were two of the best we had,” Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said, choking back tears. “This was their calling, and they did it right.” He called the men “true American heroes.”
Their deaths underscored the inherent danger that goes with police work. At least three other officers — in Georgia, Texas and Colorado — were killed last week in the line of duty, while a fourth died of a gunshot wound to the head he received in 1994 during a traffic stop in Los Angeles.
The murders of Joering and Morelli punctuate another terrible fact; the scourge of domestic violence poses a threat not just to the victims who are being directly attacked but also to society at large.
Police had previously been called to the home where 30-year-old Quentin Smith is alleged to have ambushed the two officers. His wife, the woman sobbing on the 911 phone line, had sought a protection order last year, telling authorities he had threatened to kill her, their daughter and himself if she left him. With convictions for both burglary and domestic violence, Smith was legally barred from having a gun, but his wife said he got a friend to purchase one for him.
We can’t help but be struck by the fact that at the precise time the officers were laying down their lives, discussion about domestic violence had strayed from the core concerns, fractured by political divisions, petty ambitions and stunning insensitivity from the president of the United States.
It is not enough to mourn the deaths of these two brave officers. Lessons need to be learned. Domestic abuse is not only a danger to individuals but also a threat to public safety that, if not confronted, diminishes us all.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST