Skip to content

Remembering Leo: Loyalty, Duty And A Fearless Spirit

Missi Sig

On Monday, March 4, the Marion County Sheriffs Office, held a Memorial for Leo, the first K-9 to ever be killed in the line of duty in Marion County, since the inception of the K-9 program in 1967. It was at 10:00 AM at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at 692 NW 30th Ave in Ocala.

It was a somber ceremony, with the American Flag at half mast, an echo of bagpipes playing and the highest honor, a 21 gun salute for a hero. Leo was a 4 1/2 year old, Belgian Malinois.

There were many tears, as MCSO Chaplain, Dr Vern Phillips, led with a prayer.

(Thoughts? Have your letter to the editor published here!)

MCSO Sheriff, Billy Woods, spoke of, Saturday, February 17, 2024, the day Leo was shot, he explained how, on that day, Deputies faced an armed, evil person. Sheriff Woods said, “Leo did exactly what he was trained to do, to protect his fellow deputies, he went in without hesitation “. Sheriff Woods explained the extraordinary bond, between the handlers and their K-9, the levels of loyalty and determination that they share.

Leo’s handler, and fellow Deputy, Corporal Justin Tortora, was Leo’s handler, and so much more. Leo lived with Corporal Tortora and his young family. Corporal Tortora thanked the UF Veterinary Hospital for working on Leo and giving him the absolute best care, he thanked the Florida Highway Patrol, who made sure Leo arrived at the veterinary hospital in record time, Corporal Tortora, also thanked numerous other agencies, including the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in getting Leo help, he went on to say “it was needed”. Corporal Tortora, said “these dogs are more than animals, they are more than animals to us, they are not just dogs, they are truly our protectors and on February 17th, that is what Leo did. Leo and I were exactly where Leo and I were supposed to be, we trained for thousands of hours for that moment, to face a person that others would not want to face”. He went on to thank Corporal Sapp and Sgt Rath, who were with the pair that day, saying because of Leo, three men went home that day. Corporal Tortora said, “The violence that was intended for us, Leo stood in that place, took that violence and Leo continued to fight through it all, it was amazing to watch, it was the bravest thing I have ever seen in my life”. Because of Leo, I’ve had 16 days with my wife, 16 days with my daughter”.

Corporal Tortora and Leo responded to a domestic incident on Northwest 114th Court in Silver Springs that fateful day.

Leo passed away on February 20, 2024. Rest in peace brave boy.

K-9 Prayer

I will lay down my life for you and expect nothing but love in return.

I will protect my officer with my life and would gladly take a bullet in his place.

I am sent in to find lost children and fugitives on the run.

I find drugs and weapons and even bombs.

I am the first sent in and sometimes the last to leave.

I am the nose and ears of my officer.

I protect and serve him.

I would die for him and for you.

I only ask for compassion and a kind word.

(Thoughts? Have your letter to the editor published here!)

Holding On To Leo

Corporal Justin Tortora holds his young daughter, Tynlee, 1 year old, who holds a photo of Leo, her family pet since she was born. Tynlee saw the other K-9 deputies and got very excited. She obviously misses her hero that made sure her Daddy came home alive.

Deputies And Their K-9 Partners

Over 45 Deputies from around the State, along with their K-9 partners, showed up to honor Leo, the first Marion County K-9 to be killed in the line of duty since the K-9 programs inception in 1967.

Remembering Leo

Leo’s Memorial on Monday, March 4, brought people from all over the state that came to honor Leo’s sacrifice for our community. Leo’s Memorial was at 10:00 AM at Marion County Sheriffs Office at 692 NW 30th Ave in Ocala.

Holding On Tightly To Leo’s Flag

Marion County Sheriff, Billy Woods, comforts Alesa Tortora, wife of Corporal Justin Tortora, as she holds the United States Of America’s Flag that was presented to the family in honor of Leo on Monday, March 4. Leo, was a part of their family, he went home every night with Corporal Tortora. Leo was a K-9 Deputy with MCSO for 3 1/2 years.

Sheriff Woods: “Leo Faced An Armed, Evil Person”

At Leo’s Memorial, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said, “Leo did exactly what he was trained to do, to protect his fellow deputies, he went in without hesitation.”

Leave a Comment