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Man Charged For Providing Gun Used In Fatal Shooting Of Westerville Officers

Westerville Police
Westerville officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli were killed in the line of duty on Saturday, Feb. 10.

The government has arrested a man accused of providing the gun used in the fatal shooting of two Westerville police officers.

Federal prosecutors say Gerald Lawson of suburban Cleveland is accused of buying the handgun for shooting suspect Quentin Smith last summer. A criminal complaint filed against Lawson in federal court Monday says Smith gave Lawson the money to buy the gun along with $100 for completing the transaction.

Ronald Herndon, with the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Columbus, credits tips from the community, social media posts and a gun trace for leading agents to Lawson. He said the agency pursued the information immediately following the Saturday shooting.

It was not clear whether a lawyer had been appointed yet for Lawson. He made a brief apperance in federal court Monday, where he was not required to enter a plea. A bond hearing is set for Wednesday.

Smith is accused of fatally shooting 39-year-old Eric Joering and 54-year-old Anthony Morelli, who were responding to a domestic violence call when they were ambushed. Smith was wounded in the incident.

As a felon convicted previously of burglary, Smith was prevented from having a weapon. The government says Lawson and Smith were longtime friends, and that Lawson knew Smith couldn't have a weapon.

Records obtained by the Associated Press show Smith admitted to beating up an inmate at Richland Correctional Institution in 2011, where he was imprisoned for a burgulary charge. The records show he punched and kicked an inmate while the inmate was on the ground.

For that incident, Smith was punished with 15 days in a cell segregated from the general population.

The prison system says Smith was sentenced to three years in prison in 2009 on a burglary conviction out of Cleveland with an added enhancement of having a gun. He left prison in 2011 and was released from parole, called community control in Ohio, in November 2013.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says Smith could be eligible for the death penalty because the victims were police officers killed in the line of duty.