HOUSTON – Houston Police Department commanders and officers escorted the body of officer Ernest Leal Jr. from the HCA Houston Healthcare North Cypress hospital to the Dignity Care Center Sunday at 10 a.m.
The department is mourning the loss of Leal, who died after battling COVID-19 for several weeks.
“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,” Chief Art Acevedo wrote on Twitter.
Leal died Friday at the age of 60, according to HPD. He served as an HPD officer since August 1984, serving more than three decades with the North Patrol Division. He also worked in the Northeast Patrol Division and briefly in the Jail Division.
“Just a class guy. He really does exemplify what we talk about when we talk about to protect and serve,” said Douglas Griffith, the Vice President of the Houston Police Officers Union.
Leal leaves behind his wife, Dee, and his children, Victor, Veronica, Virginia and Vanessa.
“All of HPD mourns Officer Leal’s loss,” said HPD in a press release. “We ask that everyone join us in lifting his family in prayer.”
The 35-year department veteran is the first HPD officer to die from COVID-19 and the fifth line-of-duty death within the past 12 months.
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.— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) November 28, 2020
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
Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement regarding the death of Leal.
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. 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.”Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nine municipal employees, three Houston firefighters, and one Houston police officer. The Mayor reminds everyone to continue to mask up, practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently, and get tested.
Cirilo, who was a Houston Public Works employee, 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 Friday night, 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.”