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Houston Police Department salutes its 1st officer lost to COVID-19

Houston chief: "We have truly lost a man who defines what it means to be a public servant"

A 36-year veteran of the Houston Police Department was honored with a loving celebration Sunday after he died of COVID-19 complications last Friday, according to reports.

The body of Senior Police Officer Ernest Leal Jr., 60, who had been fighting a weekslong battle, was given a police escort from the hospital to the funeral home.

"We have truly lost a man who defines what it means to be a public servant," Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement.

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Leal began working in the county jail in 1984; in 1989 he transferred to the department's North Patrol Division, where he spent the rest of his life serving the city.

Doug Griffith, vice president of the Houston Police Officers' Union, said Leal was beloved and residents on his patrol went to the hospital where he was sick and held signs reading, "We Love You Officer Leal."

"Everyone out there said just how much he was a go-getter," Griffith told ABC's Houston station KTRK-TV. "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."

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Texas health officials reported 6,041 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Sunday and 48 more deaths linked to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The pandemic continued to put pressure on the state’s medical infrastructure with more than 8,600 Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 Sunday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas health officials have recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 cases and 21,357 fatalities. 

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