Fallen Westerville officers honored, remembered every day by division of police

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The Westerville Division of Police is adorned with blue lights — symbolic of the blue line — and two wreaths, one for each officer who made the ultimate sacrifice.

On February 10, 2018, Westerville Police Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering demonstrated a kind of courage few possess. The officers were responding to a 911 hang-up call made during a domestic dispute when they were met with gunfire.

"They didn't turn and run when they were fired upon. They went in the door and they neutralized that situation," said Westerville interim Police Chief Charles Chandler.

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The officers' murders sparked a nationwide show of support. Nearly overnight, a police cruiser parked in front of city hall was transformed into a shrine. Chief Chandler said he remembers stepping out of the detective bureau and seeing the growing memorial for the first time.

"I just looked up, and it was early in the morning and there weren't people around and I didn't believe it. I remember taking a picture and texting it to my wife and saying, 'can you believe this?'" Chandler said.

The support continued at the officers' funeral service when thousands of people lined the streets to pay their respects. Police were inundated with memorial gifts that have now earned a page in the city's most tragic chapter.

Adorning the walls of the police department are handmade flags emblazoned with the blue line, 'thank you' posters, handmade photo collages, angels and crosses. A Texas law enforcement agency sent two carved wooden chairs bearing the officers names and badge numbers. The chairs are permanently placed in the police roll call room.

"In our roll call, there's always a seat for Tony and Eric," said Detective Larry French, who took on the responsibility of archiving and documenting each item. Police even saved thousands of handmade cards from school children across the country. Chief Chandler said it goes to show how much the community's support meant to the grieving officers.

"Their gesture needed to be kept and needed to be recorded," Chandler said.

Police said many items went home with the officers' families. Others are on permanent display throughout the police department to serve as a reminder for future generations of officers.

"You do want to make sure that their legacy lives on... that officers coming in the door understand this is serious business," Chandler said. "I think this really showed the humanity of central Ohio and the humanity of the nation."