Girard Officer Remembered

By Melissa Turosik

A funeral took place on Sunday for Girard police officer Justin Leo, who was killed in the line of duty on Oct. 21.

The funeral was on Sunday in Beeghly Center to remember the fallen officer.

Officers from Chicago and New York attended the funeral.

A procession traveled from Girard to Youngstown State University in a motorcade with law enforcement officers from all over the area. Shawn Varso, YSU police chief, said over 3,000 law enforcement attended.

Varso said police officers have a dangerous job and violence happens from time to time.

“When an officer is violently killed in the line of duty this is just [a way] for us, as law enforcement officers, to honor his memory and honor the duty, the job he did and to honor his family and their loss,” Varso said.

Varso said Leo should be remembered by the sacrifice he gave in protecting his city and upholding the law.

According to authorities, Leo was shot after responding to a domestic violence call in Girard. His partner returned fire, shooting and killing the suspect. Leo was taken to the hospital where he later died.

Leo was a five-year veteran of the Girard Police Department. He was 31 years old.

“When a police officer is killed especially in the line of duty, it’s a blow to everyone. Everyone takes thought of their lives and career and family and all that,” Varso said. “It’s just a shock to the system and this is the way we cope with it by honoring the officer.”

Kate Jack, a Boardman resident, watched the motorcade procession with her family and held up a thin blue line American flag in support of the officers as the motorcade passed.

“We just wanted to show our support and my cousin is in law enforcement, so it hit close to home for us. We just wanted to come and show our support for Officer Leo,” Jack said.

The motorcade procession began around 12:15 p.m. Law enforcement parked up and down Fifth Ave. to attend the funeral.

Pallbearers carried Leo’s casket covered with an American flag to the middle of Beeghly Court.

Monsignor John Zuraw of St. Rose Church in Girard led the funeral in prayer and remembrance of Leo.

Zuraw spoke about Leo during his sermon and on behalf of the family.

“Today our hearts are heavy with grief. God was with Justin with every call. God was with Justin when he was shot. God was with him when he died,” Zuraw said.

Girard Police Chief John Norman spoke to the crowd and the local law enforcement officers in the room stood up.

Norman promised Leo’s family that all those law enforcement officers would now be considered their family, and they would always be there for them.

The funeral ended as bagpipes played. Leo’s casket was carried out along with a 21-gun salute.

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