Man arrested for allegedly buying gun used in slaying of cops at scene of 911 hang-up

A second man has been arrested in the slaying of two Ohio police officers for allegedly buying the gun using in the killing, federal authorities said.

Gerald Lawson III, 30, is accused of acting as a straw purchaser for the suspect, 30-year-old Quentin Lamar Smith, who is a convicted felon and not permitted to buy a firearm, the Justice Department for the Southern District of Ohio said.

The Saturday shooting took place when Westerville police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli responded to a 911 hang-up Saturday and were "immediately met with gunfire" and exchanged fire with Smith, police said.

Smith, who allegedly had a Glock semi-automatic handgun, was also injured in the shooting and is in the hospital, authorities said. He is expected to survive, police said. The Columbus Division of Police, which is leading the investigation, has filed two counts of aggravated murder charges, according to the city of Westerville. He has not yet entered a plea.

Lawson and Smith "have a long history of friendship," according to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department said a witness told investigators Smith gave Lawson money for the firearm and an extra $100 as compensation.

Lawson was arrested today and charged with aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, the Justice Department said. He is scheduled to appear before a judge this afternoon.

The officers were "true American heroes" and "were two of the best we had," Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer said this weekend.

"This was their calling, and they did it right," Morbitzer said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich today ordered all flags be flown at half-staff in the state in honor of two police officers, who were gunned down in the governor's hometown.

A procession was held this morning for the fallen officers, leading from the coroner's office to the funeral homes.

Morelli, 54, was a 29-year veteran of the department.

Joering, 39, was a 16-year veteran of the department.

Morelli was married with two children and Joering was married with four daughters, according to The New York Times.

Morelli's and Joering's families released a statement saying how "thankful" they are for the Westerville community.

"We feel loved and blessed, and we are appreciative of the outpouring of support," the statement read. "We have seen and heard so much from people who have shared stories about how our men impacted their lives. They will be so greatly missed, not only by us, but by everyone they touched."

The statement described the fallen officers as "dedicated," both to their jobs and as their roles as fathers and husbands.

"We are so sad that Eric will not see his three daughters graduate from high school. We're devastated Tony will not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding," the statement read.

The families requested privacy and "time to heal" to mourn the loss of the officers.

Morbitzer said Sunday that as the department works with the families on funeral arrangements, the police "have seen fake GoFundMe pages established already. We have had people calling our radio room screaming threats, obscenities and vulgarities at our radio techs. And quite frankly there's a special place in hell for those people, and my wish is that it comes very soon."

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that he spoke to Kasich "to express condolences and prayers to all for the horrible shooting of two great police officers."

Kasich tweeted about the shooting several times, including to say, "The finest among us are those who risk it all everyday for our safety, and Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering were those people. Their deaths are a terrible tragedy for my hometown of Westerville and all of Ohio."

New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill also spoke out, tweeting, "Everyone should be as upset about this as America's law enforcement officers are. No cop, anywhere, 'signed up' to be murdered."

Lawson was not required to enter a plea in federal court on Monday during a brief appearance, according to The Associated Press.
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