A young boy is naturally going to look to his father as a role model. A guiding light on how to be a kind, caring man and how to walk on the right side of the law.
Justin Leon was robbed of the opportunity to learn from his father. He was just five years old when his father, Wayne, was gunned down in the line of duty. Wayne was a six-year veteran of the Cleveland PD and stopped a man that was wanted on suspicion of another shooting. While questioning the suspect, Wayne was shot point-blank in the face. He was rushed to hospital but succumbed to his injuries.
The suspect was later apprehended and convicted. He was on parole from a 10-year sentence for attempted robbery and was found guilty of aggravated murder of a police officer. He was sentenced to death in November 2000.
Being just five when his father passed away, Justin didn't have many memories of his dad.
"I've always been told that he was a very generous and very helpful and he was always just wanting to do the right thing," he told Fox News.
That spirit ran strongly through Justin, and helped encourage him to become a firefighter.
"I've always wanted to do something to help people and I've wanted to do something with the safety forces," he said.
Earlier this month Justin joined the proud tradition of being a first responder when he graduated from the 34th Fire Training Academy Class and took the oath of office. It was a proud day, but there was something special in store.
Justin's mother, Grace, pinned his new badge on his chest in a symbolic moment. The badge has the same number worn by his father: 1338.
Grace, and Wayne's former partner Lt. Mike Normal, watched Justin become a fire fighter 19 years after his father was gunned down.
"To be 19 years later and to have his son come join us on the Cleveland fire department, I think it's really important, it says a lot about Justin and his family," said Norman.