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Trial Begins For Man Accused Of Killing Westerville Police Officers

Franklin County Jail
Quentin Smith's attorney acknowledges that Smith killed the officers, but tried to portray the shootout as happening in "a moment of chaos, panic and crisis."

Trial proceedings began Monday in the case against Quentin Smith, the man charged with killing two Westerville Police officers last year.

Following the end of jury selection, the prosecution and defense delivered opening statements in the case, which shocked and galvanized the Westerville community in February 2018.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien is pursuing aggravated murder charges against Smith, arguing that he knew Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering were police officers when he pulled the trigger.

“He knew he was a law enforcement officer,” O’Brien told the jury. “As they opened the door, he could see who was standing at the door. His comment to Candace was, 'You called the cops on me?'"

The officers arrived on the scene after a 911 hang-up call made by Smith’s estranged wife Candace. According to O’Brien, there had been a domestic dispute and Smith had strangled her to the point that she lost consciousness.

O’Brien’s office is seeking the death penalty, as murdering a law enforcement officer is a specification that could lead to that sentence. Smith pleaded not guilty.

In court Monday, Smith's attorney Frederick Benton acknowledged the killings were tragic, but also emphasized how quickly the encounter played out.

“You will hear about the rapid succession of events that unfolded in a moment of chaos, panic and crisis,” Benton told jurors.

He insisted Smith was faced with an unexpected situation and was not intending to kill the officers. Benton urged jurors to keep an open mind as the case proceeds.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.