Officer Justin Leo Memorial Bridge renaming ceremony on Labor Day
By samantha phillips
The Girard-McDonald viaduct will officially be renamed the Officer Justin Leo Memorial Bridge on Monday, and before the dedication ceremony there will be a free 2-mile run/walk event through downtown Girard in honor of the slain officer.
The run/walk will start at 8:30 a.m. at city hall. The bridge dedication ceremony will start at 10 a.m. at the viaduct, which spans the Mahoning River.
Leo was shot and killed while responding to a domestic-violence call Oct. 21, 2017, on Indiana Avenue.
After the dedication ceremony, the public is invited to see the new marble monument at city hall, donated anonymously, commemorating Leo’s service.
The monument says: “In memory of Officer Justin Leo, who gave his life in the line of duty ... It’s not how these officers died that made them heroes, but how they lived.”
A group of Girard High School cross country team members has been working with the Girard Police Department and Justin’s father, Dave Leo, to set up the memorial run/walk, as Justin Leo was a cross country member.
Mayor James Melfi noted the one-year anniversary of Leo’s death is approaching, and recalls the community drawing close after the tragedy happened. He said the community’s support has helped the Leo family and the police department to heal.
A year later, signs stating “We love you Justin” and pictures of him with his badge number are still displayed throughout the downtown area.
The Justin Leo Memorial Scholarship fund continues to grow and touch the lives of students. There had been $140,000 donated to the fund, which included four $5,000 scholarships awarded this year through the Trumbull County Chapter of the National Association of Wolves, of which Dave Leo is the scholarship chairman. It will fund additional scholarships next year.
Dave and Pat Leo, both lifetime educators, continue to honor their son by establishing more scholarships. They are working with the Youngstown State University Foundation to award scholarships for two police academy students, one education student and one for a student in athletics.
To donate to the Justin Leo Scholarship Fund, go to the Girard Police Department and indicate the money is for the fund, or send the money to the department and mark the envelope with “Justin Leo Scholarship Fund.”