The city of Westerville plans to honor its two police officers killed in the line of duty with a permanent memorial at First Responders Park, one of several gestures of enduring support announced at the Feb. 20 city council meeting.
Plans for the park at 374 W. Main St. are still taking shape. Though no specific details are available yet, officials said the decision is one of many ways the community can ensure Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, are never forgotten.
"Today, we focus on the long-term for our two fallen heroes," Westerville City Council Chairman Michael Heyeck said.
The announcement came at the council's first public meeting since Joering and Morelli were killed responding to a 911 hang-up call on Feb. 10.
David Collinsworth, city manager, said after the meeting that the city hopes to pay for the memorial through grants and private donations.
Council also voted unanimously at the meeting to give Joering's K-9 partner, Sam, to his family. The dog will retire from police work and live with them permanently.
Joering's widow, Jami, and three daughters -- Eva, 12, Elena, 11, and Ella, 6 -- accepted 2-year-old Sam from his original handler, Mike Pennington of Sunbury-based Storm Dog Tactical K-9 training company.
Pennington placed Sam's police badge on a chain around Elena's neck as applause echoed through council chambers.
"You've got three little girls who are hurting real bad, and this offers them a little bit of healing," police Chief Joseph Morbitzer said. "I appreciate council making sure they and Sam can stay together."
Local veterinarians have offered to care for Sam at no cost, Morbitzer said.
They and other private donors also have offered to pay for all costs associated with purchasing another K-9 officer in the future, he said.
Representatives of Otterbein University attended the meeting and announced the three Joering girls will be offered full-tuition scholarships for four years if they choose to attend the university.
Combined, a GoFundMe page the Fraternal Order of Police set up for both officers' families and donations made in-person at CME Federal Credit Union in Westerville have collected more than $900,000, city officials said.