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Monday, April 15, 2024

Marion K-9 Leo passes away days after being shot in line of duty

A Marion County Sheriff’s Office K-9 who was shot by a battery suspect in Silver Springs over the weekend has passed away.

In a social media post on Tuesday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced that K-9 Leo has sadly passed away from injuries that were “too severe to overcome.”

MCSO K-9 Leo succumbed to his injuries on February 20, 2024, days after being shot in the line of duty. (Photo: Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

Leo had sustained gunshot wounds in a shooting incident that occurred on Saturday, February 17.

At around 9 a.m., MCSO deputies responded to the 900 block of NE 144th Court in Silver Springs in reference to a situation involving a suspect accused of battery by strangulation. Upon arrival at the incident location, deputies located the suspect in the backyard of a nearby home.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods stated that Leo was “trained to fight crime, to help those in need, and to protect his handler…..at all cost. (On) Saturday, Leo did just that.”

MCSO K 9 Leo with handler
MCSO K-9 Leo with his handler, Corporal Justin Tortora. (Photo: Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

Leo immediately charged toward the suspect who was threatening the deputies with a gun. During the confrontation, the suspect shot Leo before deputies returned fire, killing the suspect.

“Leo did exactly what he was trained to do…. and that is to fearlessly defend and protect those deputies. To charge directly at danger,” said Sheriff Woods. 

Marion County Fire Rescue rushed Leo to UF Veterinary Hospital in Gainesville, and several agencies – the Ocala Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, and Gainesville Police Department – helped to clear traffic as Leo was transported on Saturday.

While hospitalized over the last few days, Leo maintained his fighting spirit, and he was listed in critical but stable condition on Monday. However, on the following morning, he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Speaking of Leo, Sheriff Woods stated that “his passing will be felt by all of us here in my office and in our community.”

According to the sheriff, the unique bond between a law enforcement K-9 and their handler “binds them to some extraordinary levels of loyalty, love, and unwavering determination.”

Over the coming days, weeks, and months, Sheriff Woods asks for members of the local community to keep the MCSO K-9 team in their thoughts and prayers. The sheriff added that while everyone in Marion County works together to make it a great place, the community bond seems to shine even brighter during dark times.