Hundreds shared somber silence in memory of Pueblo County Sheriff Office Captain Leide DeFusco, who was killed on a narcotics air mission one week ago.
Hearts were heavy, eyes filled with tears, and minds full of memories of the leader that loved ones say had the type of courage that you can only find in heroes.
The 43-year-old was described as a man with a contagious laugh who put family first, was dedicated to his job, and loved life; doing everything to the best of his ability.
Loved ones and fellow officers and deputies say his life was lost too soon, but that his legacy will live on.
With a final radio call and 21-gun salute, they said their last goodbye at Praise Assembly Church in Pueblo.
The service was packed with hundreds, many in uniform, to honor the life of DeFusco. Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” as the family and fellow Pueblo County Sheriff Office employees were escorted inside.
Then the church was filled with silence as the crowd paid their respects.
It was apparent by the demeanor of the crowd that family, friends and fellow public servants were heartbroken by the unexpected loss.
The suddenness of his death made it difficult for loved ones to say their goodbyes. Officiant retired Pueblo Police Chief Jim Billings said while the community was not ready for him to go, they are thankful for the blessing he was to so many and service he gave.
Leide’s sister, Mianna Sorensen, talked about his love for his family and dedicated service, calling him a true hero.
“His laughter, kindness, character, and charisma will be missed by all,” she said.
Sorensen then addressed Leide's wife, saying that Wendy DeFusco was Leide's soul mate and that he did “everything in his power to make his wife happy.”
Leide is survived by Wendy and his four children.
Many talked about how Leide lived life to the fullest, cherished his family, and gave his all to everything he did.
The fallen captain’s daughters, Ashton and Kaylee, spoke during the service. They both said they were hoping this was a bad dream and that they would wake up.
The daughters said that their father had the greatest confidence they'd seen in a man, and that they would strive do to their best in everything "like he did." They said he leaves an amazing legacy, describing their favorite qualities and what he will miss.
Leide’s brothers also shared special memories. Chris DeFusco said he had “rare courage," an “infectious laugh” and goofy personality.
“I’m so proud of Leide, his legacy will live on.”
The brothers talked about how Leide was a leader at home, taking care of his brothers growing up, even cooking them food. They called him “loyal” and an “anchor.”
Marc DeFusco said “he has always been my hero” and “I will always look up to him.”
Dozens and dozens of fellow law enforcement officials from surrounding agencies and fire stations were present to share in the memorial service.
Leide has a family full of law enforcement servants. His sister says he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a Pueblo police officer.
“He put his life on the line for people he didn’t even know. That’s the kind of person we should all strive to be.”
Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor described Leide as a hard worker and good friend.
“Our hearts beat as one, collectively broken.”
He described the captain as “kind and gentle” but “steadfast and unwavering” when he needed to be.
Leide served with the Sheriff’s Office, then went to work for the Pueblo Police Department, totaling 22 years of work in law enforcement. Taylor says he asked Leide to come back to the Sheriff’s Office to build a narcotics unit from the ground up. He says Leide did that with courage and success.
“His leadership will be difficult to replace,” said Sheriff Taylor.
As captain he oversaw the Patrol Division, CSU-Pueblo and Narcotics Unit within the Law Enforcement Bureau.
Previously he was a patrol deputy and police officer, SWAT Team member, Field Training Officer, Defensive Tactics Instructor, Police Detective Corporal, Narcotics Detective, Narcotics Lieutenant and Detention Security Captain, according to the Sheriff Office website.
DeFusco was killed in a plane crash in Rye one week ago during a surveillance air mission over the San Isabel National Forest searching for illegal marijuana plant operations.
Retired Pueblo Police Officer John Barger also died in the plane crash in Rye last week. He will be remembered on Monday at the Pueblo Westbrod Aircraft Museum.
The family left these thoughts on their fallen hero in the service program:
“Leide was a true warrior. His dealings with his fellow men and his character proved that day in and day out. We challenge every one of you to be a true warrior.”