CLEVELAND, Ohio – The deaths of two Ohio police officers, killed while on duty this past Saturday, has a local woman working to try and offer help and support for the officers’ families.
Westerville, Ohio, police officers Tony Morelli and Eric Joering were shot and killed while responding to a 911 hangup.
For Mary Jo Graves of Cleveland, the news is heartbreaking.
“It is heart-wrenching. I have a friend who is more like a brother– he was getting ready for work and his five-year-old asked him – when he was putting his boots on – if he was going to work. And when he said yeah, she said, ‘daddy, don’t let them kill you today,'” said Graves.
Graves, a police dispatcher, whose brother and brother-in-laws are officers, created an organization called “Sea of Blue” following the deaths of Cleveland Police Officer David Fahey and Ohio Trooper Kenny Valez.
The organization rallied thousands of people to gather in Cleveland then as a show of support for police officers and their families.
They also sold t-shirts to provide financial support to the families.
“I learned through other survivors that unfortunately a lot of the bills aren’t paid. A lot of people think that they are, but they are not, so t-shirts are really good sellers to at least get them a little some money to get them through originally what bills they are going to have to pay,” said Graves.
Since then, the organization has generated support from across the country.
Following the shootings in Westerville, Graves once again contacted the owners of Luna Team Shop in Berea to create t-shirts in memory of Morelli and Joering.
Gene Zacharyasz, who owns the business along with his wife, was once again eager to help, having a brother who is in law enforcement.
“When I see things like this – it’s just I can’t even imagine if we got the call that you know it was a family member or someone that we knew too. And it, it’s almost, law enforcement is a big family as it is so anytime like that, anywhere around the country when you see a story like that or you hear it, it just touches home,” said Zacharyasz.
By late Tuesday, the t-shirts were designed and as of Wednesday the orders were streaming in.
Graves says a box of the shirts were being hand delivered to the Westerville Police Department on Wednesday to be presented to the officers’ families.
“You know that it’s the following weeks when it’s that silence. And they are not going out and they are not coming home. There’s no one to kiss hello or goodbye anymore. And you are there with your children, and we want them to know ourselves that we were not going to forget what they did. We will never forget what they did,” said Graves.