‘We’re there for each other:’ Rivals unite to honor fallen Girard police officer

GIRARD, Ohio–  High school football fans paused for a moment of silence inside a packed Arrowhead Stadium Friday night to remember 31-year old Girard Police Officer Justin Leo.

“We love each other, we’re there for each other and it’s just a hard time right now,” said school superintendent David Cappuzzello.

Officer Leo was shot and killed last Saturday while responding to a domestic dispute.

A former classmate sang a tribute to the 2004 Girard High School graduate, just before the Girard Indians took on their fiercest football rivals, the Liberty Leopards.

The home team took the field, wearing Officer Leo’s initials and badge number 324, on their helmets. In a show of unity, the rival team wore them too.

“They called during the week and they wanted to put the stickers on their helmets as well, so Liberty right now is wearing the same stickers we are,” said the superintendent.

A jersey with Officer Leo’s name and badge number, which sat on the sidelines, will be given to his family.

“They are not here, but they know what is happening tonight and I have to tell everyone just how comforted they are to know that Justin has been embraced and engulfed and that they are as a family just being loved,” said William Ryser, Girard High School principal.

“He was tremendous in our community and I just remember him growing up, when my son played basketball, he would be reffing the games,” said Anniece Richardson, 1990 Girard graduate.

“To die doing something that you love is just, it’s very heart warming and to see all these people tonight is just fabulous,” said Girard resident Carole Swope.

The red and black scored first, but another color filled their hearts too.

“Along with plenty of blue balloons in honor of Officer Justin Leo from his classmate,” said the game announcer as blue balloons were released into the sky.

Officer Justin Leo’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Beeghly Center on the campus of Youngstown State University.

Continuing coverage on this story here