‘We didn’t even get to say goodbye’: Parents remember slain Girard officer

Officer Justin Leo (Courtesy of the Girard Police Department)

GIRARD, Ohio (WYTV) – There were both tears and laughter as David and Pat Leo went through photos of their son, Justin.

Saturday night, they got the news that no parent wants to hear. They woke up to an officer pounding on their front door.

“It was about five minutes after we got down there. It was all over,” David said. “We didn’t even get to say goodbye, but he knows we love him.”

Justin was shot in the line of duty on Saturday night as he was called to what was reported as a domestic incident in Girard. In an exchange of gunfire, the shooter was killed and Justin also passed away from his injuries.

Justin’s parents said their son loved his job and loved the city of Girard, where he lived all of his life.

Watch: Parents remember Justin Leo

Justin graduated from Girard High School in 2004, where he was a member of the 2000 state champion Cross Country team.

He went on to graduate from the Youngstown State University Police Academy in 2009 and was sworn in as a Girard police officer in 2012.

David was a proud father.

“You know, every time I talked to someone, I think the first words out of my mouth were, ‘My son’s a Girard policeman now,” he said.

Before he decided on a career, Justin became close with Girard’s current police chief, John Norman. During his time spent riding along with Norman, he decided that he wanted to become a police officer.

It was something Justin knew that he loved immediately.

“A week after on the job, he figured this was going to be his 25- to 30-year calling,” David said.

Justin’s parents said they are now hearing stories about their son’s time as an officer — stories they have never heard before.

“There’s postings on Facebook that other people forwarded to us. Things that Justin had done for them, things we didn’t know. He didn’t share those things with us. They were just things he wanted to do for people to make their a lives better, a little happier” Pat said.

Pat said one story she was told was that Justin pulled over a couple for speeding in the city. The woman and her husband — a disabled veteran — pleaded with Justin to let them go because money was tight, Pat recalled. She said the woman later said that Justin had to give them a ticket because the incident was captured on camera but later gave them money to help pay for it.

That was just his nature, his parents recalled.

David and Pat say they plan to create a scholarship in memory of Justin, in the hopes that a Girard student learns Justin’s story.

“We had the discussion with him, and we always knew something could happen. But, we always thought we’d have more time,” Pat said, crying. “We didn’t think it would happen this soon.”

Officer Justin Leo (Courtesy of the Girard Police Department)
Officer Justin Leo (Courtesy of the Girard Police Department)