The retired teacher stood amid the landscaping of Hill Funeral Home, clutching a miniature American flag to honor a fallen Westerville police officer she’d known since he was a hometown boy.
Jeri Price, 66, blinked back tears as she told stories of Eric Joering, a fun-loving kid in her elementary school physical education classes.
Minutes later, she watched police vehicles from across the region escort Joering’s body to the funeral home.
“I was so glad to see him paying back his community,” Price said. “Unfortunately, his life became the payback. It’s just so sad.”
Joering, 39, and fellow officer Anthony Morelli, 54, were fatally shot Saturday responding to a 911 hang-up call in the 300 block of Cross Wind Drive that appeared to stem from a case of domestic violence. Quentin Lamar Smith has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder in their deaths.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Westerville for about two hours Monday afternoon to show their support for the officers, their families and the city.
The escort to two Westerville funeral homes began just before noon. Morelli’s body was first taken to Moreland Funeral Home, 55 E. Schrock Road. The procession ended just south of Uptown Westerville at Hill Funeral Home, 220 S. State St.
Dozens of police vehicles from throughout central Ohio region lined up at the end of the route with flashing lights to show their respects, stretching three lanes deep for about a quater-mile.
Many who came Monday didn’t live in Westerville.
Jen Shaffer, 49, of Lexington, and Karen Stineman, 63, of Delaware, traveled in honor of their families members who are retired police officers. Shaffer’s father retired with Columbus police. Stineman’s nephew worked in New York.
They stood outside Hill Funeral Home with carnations tied with blue ribbons and offered them to mourners.
“To think about my dad not coming home one day — it’s unimaginable,” Shaffer said.
Public visitation for both Joering and Morelli will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at St. Paul Catholic Church, 313 N. State St., Westerville, followed by services at 12:30 p.m. for Joering and 1 p.m. service for Morelli.