Houston Senior Police Officer Ernest Leal Jr., 60, died Friday after battling the coronavirus since October.
Officer Leal is HPD’s fifth line-of-duty death in the past year and the department’s first from COVID-19.
Officer Leal had been with Houston PD since 1984 and had been at the North Patrol Division since 1989.
We have lost another Houston Police Officer in the Line of Duty, 5th in past 11 months. Off Ernest Leal was a great man, always had a smile on and would share a kind word. After valiantly battling Covid, he succumbed earlier today. Please keep his family in your thoughts/prayers
— Joe Gamaldi (@JoeGamaldi) November 28, 2020
“We have truly lost a man who defines what it means to be a public servant,” Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement.
Officer Leal leaves behind his wife, Dee, and children Victor, Veronica, Virginia and Vannessa. He is also survived by his mother, Rosa, two brothers, David and Marcus, and sister, Brenda. Officer Leal was preceded in death by his father, Ernest.
KHOU11 reports that Houston area law enforcement has lost four officers to COVID-19 this year, including three Harris County Deputies and a Harris County Precinct 5 Constable.
Mayor Sylvester Turner released the following statement on Officer Leal’s death, as well as the death of Joel Cirilo, a public works employee who died Wednesday after battling COVID-19.
“Mayor Sylvester Turner tonight sends his condolences to the families of two City of Houston employees who died this week as a result of COVID-19.
“Houston Public Works (HPW) employee Joel Cirilo passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 25, after bravely fighting COVID-19 in the hospital for the past week. Cirilo began his career in the Code Enforcement Division on May 12, 2014. His wife is also an HPW employee. In a statement tonight, Veronica Cirilo said, ‘Joel will be missed so much. He loved his job and our co-workers. He fought so courageously, but this virus has no mercy. Praying that 2021 brings no more heartache due to COVID-19. I am thankful for so many blessings Joel and I shared through the years.’
“Friday evening, the Houston Police Department (HPD) announced Senior Officer Ernest Leal Jr.’s line of duty death due to COVID-19. Officer Leal joined HPD in 1984 and served with honor and compassion.
“As a city, we collectively mourn and feel the grief and heartache of losing two employees in the same week as a result of COVID-19. I ask all Houstonians to pray for the families of Officer Ernest Leal and Joel Cirilo. In their own way, they contributed to our city and made life better for all of us. I am grateful for their dedication and service to the City of Houston,” said Mayor Turner. “COVID-19 does not discriminate. It is an insidious virus that has claimed far too many lives in Houston and around the nation. Each of us must do our part to stop the virus from spreading and destroying families.
It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the death of @houstonpolice Officer Ernest Leal, Jr. He battled COVID-19 with great vigor and courage.
Thank you to all who prayed and sent thoughts of healing and comfort to him and his family. RIP faithful servant. pic.twitter.com/K9QP62te5m
— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) November 28, 2020
As a city, we collectively mourn and feel the grief and heartache of losing two employees in the same week as a result of #COVID19. I ask all Houstonians to pray for the families of @houstonpolice Senior Police Officer Ernest Leal Jr. and @HouPublicWorks Joel Cirilo Jr. pic.twitter.com/Q8BTj7Hxdj
— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) November 28, 2020
Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nine City of Houston employees.