COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man was charged Monday with providing the gun used to kill two Ohio policemen, as the officers’ bodies were escorted in a procession to funeral homes in the suburban community they served.
Gerald Lawson, 30, of suburban Cleveland, is accused of buying the handgun for shooting suspect Quentin Smith last summer.
Smith gave Lawson the money to buy the gun along with $100 for completing the transaction, according to a criminal complaint filed against Lawson in federal court Monday.
Lawson, his hands and feet shackled, appeared briefly in federal court Monday in a hearing where he was not required to enter a plea. A bond hearing was set for Wednesday.
It was not clear whether a lawyer had been appointed for Lawson. The lawyer identified by a federal magistrate as Lawson’s attorney told The Associated Press he has not yet been retained.
More than two dozen police officers crowded into the hearing Monday, almost all from Westerville in suburban Columbus, the department that lost two officers in Saturday’s shooting.
Community tips, social media posts and a gun trace led authorities to Lawson, said Ronald Herndon, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.
As a felon convicted previously of burglary, Smith was prevented from having a weapon.
Lawson and Smith were longtime friends, and Lawson knew Smith couldn’t have a weapon, authorities said. A social media post by Lawson after Saturday’s shooting “referenced the long-standing friendship between the two,” according to the complaint by ATF agent Teresa Petit.
Westerville police officers Eric Joering, 39, and Anthony Morelli, 54, were responding to a hang-up 911 call at Smith’s townhome Saturday when they were shot, police say. Smith was also wounded and remained hospitalized.
Westerville police had gone to Smith’s townhome where he lived with his wife, Candace, for domestic disputes three times since September, and neighbors said they frequently fought.
Smith, 30, is charged with two preliminary counts of aggravated murder. He could be indicted on formal charges including the possibility of a death sentence because the victims were police officers killed in the line of duty, said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien.
Hundreds watched Monday from streets and highway overpasses as the officers’ bodies were escorted to funeral homes in suburban Westerville, northeast of Columbus.
A charitable fund created for the families of the officers has raised more than $270,000 in a day. The GoFundMe site organized by a central Ohio Fraternal Order of Police chapter was created after Saturday’s fatal shooting.
Also Monday, Republican Gov. John Kasich ordered flags flown at half-staff at Ohio public properties until the officers are interred.
This undated photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows Quentin L. Smith, charged with aggravated murder after the deaths of two police officers shot Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, while responding to a 911 hang-up call at a town home in Westerville, Ohio. Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, ordered flags flown at half-staff around the state to honor Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli, the two officers fatally shot at the town home in the suburb of Columbus, Ohio. Smith, wounded in the shootout, was hospitalized in stable condition and expected to survive, officials said Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction via AP)
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the City of Westerville, Ohio shows Officer Eric Joering, 39, who was fatally shot while responding to a hang-up 9-1-1 call on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Officer Anthony Morelli, 54, was also killed in the incident. Police in the Columbus suburb of Westerville on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 will escort the bodies of two slain officers as they're moved from a coroner's office to separate funeral homes. Officials invited the public to line the route as the bodies are transported Monday to honor the officers. (Alan Geho/City of Westerville via AP, File)
Columbus Police honor guard members salute the ambulance carrying the body of Westerville Police officer Eric Joering during a procession transporting the bodies of Joering and Anthony Morelli from the Franklin County Coroners Office to the Hill and Moreland funeral homes in Westerville, Ohio, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (Adam Cairns/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)
FILE - These undated file photos provided by the City of Westerville, Ohio show Officers Eric Joering, 39, left, and Anthony Morelli, 54, who were fatally shot while responding to a hang-up 9-1-1 call on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Police in the Columbus suburb of Westerville on Monday, Feb. 12 will escort the bodies of two slain officers as they're moved from a coroner's office to separate funeral homes. Officials invited the public to line the route as the bodies are transported Monday to honor the officers. (City of Westerville via AP, File)