The family of slain Westerville officer Eric Joering is getting more help, this time from a national organization.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 14, representatives from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation held a press conference in Westerville to announce that the organization would pay off the mortgage on Eric and Jami Joering’s house.
Officers Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, were shot and killed while responding to a domestic-violence call in Westerville on Feb. 10. Westerville resident Quentin L. Smith, 30, was wounded in the exchange and charged with two counts of aggravated murder the next day.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was formed in memory of Stephen Siller, a New York firefighter who died Sept. 11, 2001, as he rushed to help others in the city after the terror attacks. The organization provides assistance to families of fallen first responders and holds events to raise funding for charitable programs.
Frank Siller, Stephen’s older brother and chairman and CEO of the organization, said it was the foundation’s “duty and obligation” to come to Westerville.
“When the Tunnel to Towers Foundation heard what happened here in Westerville, we knew it was our duty,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we did something for this family and the Westerville family because we know loss firsthand.”
Siller said because the organization can’t assist every family, it prioritizes “those who have young kids” largely because his brother had five children of his own when he died.
Eric and Jami Joering have three children: Eva, 12, Elena, 11, and Ella, 6.
Stiller said the foundation decided to pay off Joerings’ home “so that officer Joerning’s family will never have to worry about that burden.”
“They have enough to worry about and to think about,” he said. “It’s just one thing that takes a burden off of them. Jami will never have to think about another mortgage payment. It’s another gift from the sacrifice that her husband made.”
At the same press conference, Mayor Michael Heyeck offered “condolences to both families” on behalf of Westerville City Council and the community and urged residents to support them.
“We need to go beyond just this week,” he said. “We need to go further than that, into the long term, to help each of these families.”
An emotional police Chief Joseph Morbitzer said responsibility is being taken very seriously by him and the police community.
“This can’t stop today,” he said. “We’ve made a pledge that (there will be an officer at) every dance that the girls have, every sporting event that the girls have.
“Every boyfriend is going to have to be screened through us,” he said with a smile.
A joint funeral service has been scheduled for Joering and Morelli from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Feb. 16, at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, 313 N. State St.
The Westerville Division of Police is requesting that those in attendance arrive by 9:30 a.m.
Westerville City Schools have canceled classes for Friday so that students can attend the service with their families.