GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – It takes a village to raise a child — a child who grew up in the Girard community, went to school at St. Rose Church, became a police officer to protect his neighborhood streets, and died on duty. Tuesday night, the community mourned the loss of Officer Justin Leo at a prayer vigil in his honor.
“As we grieve the loss of one so young, we seek to understand your purpose,” Rev. Vicky Kelly, with First United Methodist Church, prayed.
The service, officiated by Msgr. John Zuraw, drew hundreds of people to St. Rose.
Leo’s parents were escorted to their 31-year-old son’s vigil by his brothers in blue — Girard police officers.
“In the name of the City of Girard, we extend our deepest sympathy, and most especially our prayers of support, to Justin’s parents. Know that over the past few days, you have been the strength to this city,” Zuraw said.
The family sat in the front rows while officers and public officials joined religious leaders in taking turns speaking.Watch: Full prayer vigil for Officer Leo
Msgr. Zuraw shared stories about Leo that weren’t made known publically until after he passed. They showed the officer’s true nature and his compassion for others.
“What Justin taught us in a mere 31 years is that, simply, we cannot sit on our hands and do nothing,” Zuraw said. “Every time we sit on our hands and do nothing, we are impeding God’s work.”
One story involved a few young men Leo found trespassing. Instead of arresting them, he tossed a football back and forth and got to know them.
“Those little acts of kindness, those simple, good qualities that each and every one of us has, can truly make a difference in this world,” Zuraw said.
At Tuesday’s vigil, everyone in the crowd honored the sacrifice Leo made for his community.
“Let us thank these men and women in blue,” Zuraw said, met with a round of applause and standing ovation.
About 100 officers from across the area came to the vigil, visibly moved by the passing of a fellow policeman. Before leaving at the end of the service, each saluted a photo of Leo or made a sign of the cross.
There will be more chances to honor the fallen officer this week.
Public calling hours will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown.
A Mass service on Sunday, Oct. 29 will be held at Beeghly Center on Youngstown State’s campus at 1 p.m.
Leo will be laid to rest at Tod Homestead Cemetery, following a private committal service.
WKBN has set up an online form for viewers to leave memories of how Officer Leo has 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):