‘Our hearts are heavy:’ Girard mourns fallen officer

A blue wreath and a candle sit outside of the Girard Police Department to honor late officer Justin Leo

Girard continues to mourn the loss of police officer Justin Leo, who was shot on duty Saturday night and later died at the hospital.
A wreath with Officer Leo’s photo sits outside city hall.

GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – Girard continues to mourn the loss of police officer Justin Leo, who was shot on duty Saturday night and later died at the hospital.

A vigil for Officer Leo was held Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Girard High football stadium. But the support from people across the area began earlier in the day.

A blue wreath and a candle — which honors Leo — sit outside the front doors of the Girard Police Department. Brian Fullum made the 35-minute trip from Salem to drop them off.

“We want the people and the public to know this is a family here of police officers and they need our support right now,” Fullum said. “They’re all hurting.”

Girard Mayor James Melfi said it overnight and said it again Sunday — Saturday was the worst day in the history of the city.

“We’ve never had a tragedy of this proportion,” he said.

Someone placed a different wreath with Officer Leo’s photo outside city hall. Multiple people also dropped off food throughout the afternoon and two women tied blue ribbons around the trees in front of the department.

Leo, 31, was shot after responding to a call at a house on Indiana Avenue. Another officer shot and killed Leo’s shooter.

Melfi says he’s known Leo since he was a first-grader. He called him a gentle person who really cared for the city.

“Just a kind human being,” Melfi said. “They don’t come around like him very often.”

First United Methodist Church on North Market Street — just one block over from the Girard Police Department — mourned the loss Sunday morning as well.

“We want them to know that they’re not alone and we stand with them,” Pastor Vicky Kelley of First United Methodist said. “This sorrow has touched them so deeply. They don’t have to bear by themselves.”

Kelley started Sunday morning’s service off a little different.

“I’m going to invite you to come and circle the sanctuary after we are done singing,” Kelley said. “So we can show our unity and our strength for the time of this sorrow for our community.”

“Our hearts are heavy with such deep sorrow for the loss of this officer,” she added.

Mayor Melfi says the love from the people of Girard has been great, while they’ve also received support from throughout the country.

WKBN has set up an online form for viewers to leave memories of how Officer Leo touched their lives, as well as messages of condolence for the family.

Leave your message below (If you are viewing this on the WKBN app, click here to view the form on WKBN.com):

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