Visitation scheduled for 36-year HPD vet who died from COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The public will have the opportunity to honor the life of HPD Senior Police Officer Ernest Leal Jr. tomorrow.

Officer Leal died in the hospital the day after Thanksgiving following a battle with COVID-19.

A visitation will be held Wednesday at St. Patrick Catholic Church from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The church is located at 4918 Cochran St.

A private family viewing and rosary will follow the visitation.

Leal's funeral service will be held Thursday, reserved for family, friends and HPD staff who knew the officer.

HPD commanders and officers escorted his body earlier this week from the HCA Houston Healthcare North Cypress hospital to the Dignity Care Center.

Doug Griffith, Vice President of the Houston Police Officers' Union, said last week members from the neighborhood where Officer Leal patrolled were seen outside the hospital holding signs that read, "We Love You Officer Leal."

Leal served Houston as an HPD officer since August 1984, beginning his career in the Northeast Patrol and Jail Divisions. In December 1989, he transferred to the North Patrol Division where he served until his death.

"Everyone out there said just how much he was a go-getter," Griffith said. "He would always be on the scene, you know. He is always out there to help out and lend a helping hand and serve the community. It's an honor to have known him and his lovely wife, and we just want to keep them in our prayers right now."

Officer Leal is one of two city employees who died from COVID-19 last week.

Houston Public Works employee Joel Cirilo was fighting for his life for a week, before he passed away last Wednesday.

"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," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement on Friday. "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."

Cirilo started his career with the city of Houston in the Code Enforcement Division in 2014. His wife, Veronica, is also a Houston Public Works employee.

Nine municipal employees, three Houston firefighters and one Houston police officer have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

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