To say Friday, May 6 was a bittersweet day for the family of Noah Leotta — a Montgomery County police officer who died in December of injuries sustained when he was struck by a drunk driver — would be a drastic understatement.
Leotta, a brother to Shana and a son to Richard Leotta and Marcia Goldman, was honored at Fallen Heroes Day, an annual ceremony held at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Lutherville-Timonium in which police and fire departments from around the state gather to mourn and honor those who died in the line of duty in the preceding year.
“They’re out there every day putting their lives at risk, knowing they might not go home,” Richard Leotta said. “To have a day dedicated to them, I think that’s the right thing to do. …We don’t do enough for those that are on domestic soil.”
But having lost Noah just six months earlier, the event was a day of sorrow for the proud family.
“The grief is raw, there’s no way to channel it into a real positive thing,” Richard said. “It’s just bare grief. A lot of crying, a lot of emotion. As my wife said, we’re burying our son every time we go to these events.”
Former WBAL Radio and WMAR-TV reporter Mary Beth Marsden served as the master of ceremonies, and read a passage about Noah at the event.
“As a child he was considered shy and reserved, but in his late teens he began to transform himself into a more confident and driven person,” she said. “He secured an internship with the Montgomery County Police department and worked with officers in the alcohol-initiatives section. Noah’s internship motivated him to enter the police academy, and when he graduated in 2013 he was assigned to the Wheaton district.”
A supervisor said Leotta, who was 24 when he died, was always happy and eager to start the day and he had unwavering and infectious enthusiasm for the job, Marsden said.
Fallen Heroes Day also honored Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon of the Harford County Sheriff’s office and Detective Jacai Colson of the Prince George’s County Police department. The ceremony was attended by various officials, including Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan.
“Today we pray that [the families] find comfort and strength, we pray that they find solace knowing that their loved one died doing what they were called to do and knowing that their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Hogan said. “Their legacy will forever live on.”
Cantor Melvin Luterman also sang a prayer at the ceremony. Luterman, who was cantor at Temple Oheb Shalom from 1967 to 2003, is now a chaplain with Baltimore County police and fire and Maryland State Police.
“When I go to these things I get really verklempt, I get very teary-eyed because it’s so beautiful what they do for these officers,” he said. “It really shows how we should appreciate our police and fire [fighters] more. We don’t appreciate them enough, we take them for granted. … Every time they get out of their car to stop another car their life is in danger.”
To channel their grieving, the Leotta family pushed for Noah’s Law, which the Maryland General Assembly passed this past session. The law expands the use of ignition locks in drunk driving cases.
“With Noah’s law, the grieving came out in a way that made a difference,” Richard said.
The family also recently set up the Officer Noah Aaron Leotta Foundation, which was funded for 10 years by a wealthy benefactor. The foundation will work to spread awareness on drunk driving, underage drinking and other community issues related to drugs and alcohol.