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Autopsies: Ohio officers killed by shots to head, torso

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the autopsies support his office's theory about what took place that day


By Kimball Perry
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Westerville police Officer Eric Joering was killed Feb. 10 when he was shot three times, once in the forehead, while fellow Officer Anthony Morelli died after being shot in the chest as they responded to a possible domestic violence call.

Those are the findings of autopsies performed by the Franklin County Coroner's office on both officers. Quentin Lamar Smith, 30, has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the case for shooting both officers to death as they responded to Smith's townhouse just before noon on the 300 block of Cross Wind Drive.

These undated file photos provided by the City of Westerville, Ohio show Officers Eric Joering, 39, left, and Anthony Morelli, 54, who were fatally shot while responding to a hang-up 9-1-1 call on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (City of Westerville via AP, File)
These undated file photos provided by the City of Westerville, Ohio show Officers Eric Joering, 39, left, and Anthony Morelli, 54, who were fatally shot while responding to a hang-up 9-1-1 call on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (City of Westerville via AP, File)

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Thursday the autopsies support his office's theory about what took place that day. O'Brien is seeking the death penalty against Smith, who was wounded but recovered.

"Officer Joering was the first one to the door, and the shot to his head indicates what happened," O'Brien said shortly after the official autopsies were released Thursday.

"He was shot at point-blank range. We believe it instantly caused his death," the prosecutor said.

The fatal shot to Joering was in the forehead and exited from the back of the left side of his neck. The autopsy showed Joering, 39, also was shot in the left arm and shoulder and the right forearm. He died at the scene.

Morelli, 54, who was right behind Joering as the officers responded, was shot in the left chest, with the bullet traveling from left to right. The bullet penetrated the heart and both lungs. Morelli was transported but later died at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

Westerville police earlier reported both officers were wearing body armor.

Both autopsies determined the deaths were caused by homicide.

Smith was shot "four or five times" by Morelli before the officer went down, O'Brien said.

The officers went to the home after a 911 hangup at the residence where police previously responded to domestic disturbance calls. When they arrived, police said, Smith's wife told them Smith assaulted her and had a gun.

In Ohio, conviction for purposefully killing one or more police officers is a crime punishable by death.

©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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