YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Just three weeks after Girard officer Justin Leo was killed in the line of duty, people from around the Valley are still coming together to keep his legacy going.
Through friendly competition on the football field Saturday, they were able to raise more than $3,000 for his parents and share memories about their friend.
“It helps everyone to see other law enforcement officers,” Girard Police Chief John Norman said. “Heck, I think we got a Girard team out here — a bunch of young kids who grew up with Justin when he umpired their games.”
Sports was one of the things Officer Leo was most passionate about.
“He refereed basketball games, umpired baseball — we went to a lot of football games together,” Norman said.
About 150 police officers hit the turf at YSU’s Watts Center for the flag football tournament.
“14 teams signed up,” organizer Rory Timlin said. “I had to actually turn teams down and tell them, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have enough space, we don’t have enough time.'”
Through buying into the competition, the teams raised $3,300 dollars — all going to the Leo family.
Officer Leo’s parents were on the sidelines, overwhelmed by the community’s support.
“I know I sound like a broken record,” Justin’s mother Pat Leo said. “But it seems like every time you think there’s nothing else anyone could possibly do — they’ve done it all — someone comes around and just blows us out of the water again.”
Girard Mayor James Melfi — the day before his 60th birthday — even got in on some action.
Although the day was filled with smiles, both Leo’s parents and the police say it also helped with the healing process.
“They say when we can get to the point where we can laugh and cry at the same time — it’s started and we’re getting there,” Justin’s father David Leo said. “It’s every day. Three weeks ago, we got a second at a time, now we maybe get a day at a time.”
Organizers and the police hope they can hold this event in officer Leo’s honor every year.