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OPOTA honors brave officers who gave everything


Fallen Officers Memorial Ceremony

On May 2, four Ohio officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2018 were honored at the 32nd annual Ohio Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony.

Their names were added to the memorial wall at the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy in London, bringing the total number of fallen officers honored there to 799. 

The public show of support for fallen officers and their sacrifices is similarly striking.

Sgt. Tony Rudd of the Westerville Police Division, for example, said he was impressed by how many law officers from other agencies as well as community members turned out for a weeklong show of support after two colleagues were ambushed in February 2018. 

“A lot of people, you think they only see us as the badge — that they see the uniform, but they don’t see the person behind it,” he said. “So the biggest surprise to me was how big this thing got. I saw a different side of Westerville — and all of central Ohio, for that matter — when Tony and Eric got killed. People lined the streets for miles and miles, standing in the cold for all of that time. 

“That just goes to show you who the people we work for are,” he said. “It was such a good feeling.”

Here’s how the four officers who died in the line of duty last year lived:

Officer Eric J. Joering

Westerville Division of Police

Westerville Officer Eric Joering

“Eric would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it; if you needed money, he’d give you money,” said Westerville Officer Guy Cerino, who was hired in 2001, the same year that Joering was. 

“That was the kind of person he was.”

Joering, 39, was an expert in police tactics and weapons. During his years at Westerville, he served as a juvenile-case detective, training officer, firearms trainer, street cop and K9 officer.

In his off time, the married father of three girls liked to hunt, scuba dive and spend time with his family and friends.

Officer Mathew J. Mazany

Mentor Police Department

Mentor Police Officer Mathew J. Mazany

“Mentor was a safer place and the Mentor PD was a better police department because of Mat,” retired Mentor Sgt. Scott Tkach, who supervised Mazany for six years, said at his funeral.

Mazany, 41, was known as an officer who’d speak his mind and then move on. In his 14 years with the department, he worked patrol on 12-hour midnight shifts. 

Outside of work, the married father of one enjoyed smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, playing video games with his son, and riding his motorcycle. He’d wanted to be a cop for his whole life.

Officer Anthony P. Morelli

Westerville Division of Police

Westerville Officer Anthony P. Morelli

“Since 1988, any story that I have told — the best times that I’ve had as an adult — inevitably Tony Morelli is part of that story,” said retired Training Officer Dave King, part of a tightknit group of officers who started in Westerville about the same time 31 years ago.

Morelli, 54, had served as a patrol officer, crime prevention officer and school resource officer. He worked special duty at the Westerville Library and taught self-defense classes for women.

The married father of two enjoyed tailgating before Ohio State games, working out and having fun with his friends. 

“Every day was something special to him,” Rudd said.

Officer Vu X. Nguyen

Cleveland Division of Police

Cleveland Officer Vu X. Nguyen

“All Vu wanted was for his family to be happy,” said Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, who went through the academy with Nguyen and lives next door to his family. “But he also somehow managed to touch so many people’s lives and make a difference by being himself and being engaged.”

Nguyen, 50, spent 20 years as a popular officer patrolling the streets of Cleveland. 

The married father of two girls, who had 14 siblings, loved to eat and plan vacations for his family and anyone else who’d let him. He was known for passing out popsicles and organizing games for big groups of kids.