GAITHERSBURG, Md. - Hundreds of police officers from around the region packed a church in Gaithersburg on Tuesday for the funeral of Montgomery County Officer Noah Leotta.
He was a young man remembered by friends, family and fellow officers for his "keen sense of fairness, a million dollar smile and baby blue eyes.”
Saying goodbye to anyone you love, admire and respect can be incredibly difficult. But when it is a cop just 24 years old and cut down in the prime of his life while doing his job, the end is like a punch in the gut.
The sun was barely over the horizon when the officers began arriving by the dozens. Motorcycle officers, honor guards and firefighters were just some of the people there to say goodbye to a young man remembered by Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger as a man suited to be a cop -- smart, courageous and caring.
Leotta was called an inspiration to all of us.
"His parents are affected -- sister, friends, our whole department,” said Montgomery County Police Officer John Romack. “But I can tell you one thing -- if we don't come together as a community and change some DWI laws and have repeat offenders where they have to have a blow machine in their car for long periods of time to make sure that we’re keeping everybody safe, we’re making big mistakes again and again.”
Romack, who mentored Leotta as an intern, was just one of three officials at the funeral who called on lawmakers in Annapolis to change the laws.
Police say the man who hit and killed Officer Leotta had twice before been arrested for DWI and they suspect he was drunk the night of the fatal collision on Rockville Pike.
"That first intern ride along one night with me, he knew that he wanted to be the police and he totally changed his character of working out, his diet, his eating,” said Romack. “He totally dedicated himself to be the best Montgomery County police officer that he could be.”
He said he nicknamed Leotta "pizza bagel" because his father was Italian and his mother was Jewish. He loved golf, the Washington Redskins and the Maryland Terrapins.
Incredibly good-natured family members told mourners inside the church that Leotta was a gentle soul who died doing what he loved.
Motorcycle officers escort the hearse carrying officer Leotta's body to the cemetery. pic.twitter.com/jbgAkcsZ9X— Paul Wagner (@Fox5Wagner) December 15, 2015