Marion County K-9 Leo laid to rest in touching tribute attended by dozens

The Marion County Sheriff's Office, accompanied by dozens of law enforcement officers, paid tribute to a fallen hero with a 21-gun salute. K-9 Leo, who valiantly gave his life while shielding deputies, was laid to rest on Monday.

Handlers and K-9 units from across the state converged to honor Leo's sacrifice. Corporal Justin Tortora, Leo's handler, recounted the tragic incident that unfolded on February 17. Leo bravely intervened during a disturbance call, positioning himself between danger and the responding deputies.

"Leo put the suspect on the ground. He took direct gunfire, gunfire that was meant for me or one of the two officers there," he explained.


Corporal Tortora issued commands, prompting Leo to confront the armed suspect. In the exchange, a bullet found its mark in an unprotected area, breaching Leo's bulletproof vest. Despite the injury, Leo tenaciously assisted in apprehending the suspect.

"We trained thousands of hours, thousands of hours for that moment to face the person that others wouldn’t want to face," he added.

Following three days at the UF Vet Hospital, Leo, having fought with unwavering determination, passed away with honor and sacrifice. Corporal Tortora expressed profound grief over the loss of his cherished companion but found solace in the realization that they had fulfilled their duty where it mattered most.

Corp. Tortora said he would love to have another K-9 but said he can’t ask another animal to do what Leo did for him.