The Legacy of Laura

This is the story of Laura, a young 8-year-old girl who loves life, being at the ocean, and spending time with her family and especially her grandparents.

With her flowing red hair and face full of freckles she more closely resembled Little Orphan Annie than anyone in her own family. But it was crystal clear she was from her grandfather.

Laura would approach life with laser focus, there is nothing that will stop her dreams, her ambitions. She was fearless and committed. She always would achieve what she set her mind to. Driven just like her grandfather. Already accomplishing so much already at the age of 8, unfortunately Laura would not accomplish anything more.

She was always full of love and cheer. Immensely protective of her family Laura would never let anyone do anything to any of them. Especially her younger brother who she saw herself as his guardian, a role she cherished.

Next to her family she was also very protective of her dog and sidekick Defender, so named because of her love for law enforcement which was no surprise considering the influence she received from her grandfather who was a police officer.

Laura has always been a good girl, never causing problems for her parents or anyone else. Her aptitude for being the peacekeeper came out early in personality. Driven to see it was a fair and just world for everyone she always saw herself as a diplomat even at the age of 8.

Her heroes were not the normal pick of the Avengers group, Superman, or even Wonder Woman. Her heroes were always the men and women in blue. (And yes, she would at times also acknowledge the hero in every firefighter). Holding a high regard for the men and women who wore the uniform of public service was in her DNA.

Law and order were also part of her foundation and principles, always quick to step in to settle disputes or arguments. Whether in school, at the playground, or even at home, Laura was the one who always tried to play the role of mediator and strive for consensus for peace rather than dissention for discord. Her passion for justice was assuredly from her grandfather who committed his life to helping others. It was in her DNA.

Unlike most children her age Laura favored Easter over all other holidays and special occasions. You see, Laura knew Easter ushered in Spring, her favorite time of the year because it ushered in new life in plants, trees, flowers, and more. She also knew that Easter also ushered in family camping which she loved to do so much. Spring break from school would always be the families first camping trip of the year. She so loves being in the mountains, away from civilization.

She really like it when her grandfather would come with them as he always took her to secret fishing holes where they would spend hours talking about life while occasionally reeling in a small fish that Laura was always adamant about releasing back into the water.

You see, Laura was all about helping people. A trait she got from her grandfather and one that defined her life. She would go out of her way to help a stranger who was struggling, to feed the homeless, or to take injured animals in to rehabilitate. It was in her DNA. But Laura would not have any more camping trips.

Laura had a spirit unparalleled. She lightened up any room she walked into. Her smile was infectious, and she always found the positive in everyone and in every situation. Far more mature than others her age Laura was a very selfless individual who always put others before her. It was another trait she certainly got from her grandfather. It was in her DNA.

Someone who was much more mature than others her own age, Laura often could be seen doing things one would expect of much older individuals. Never one to sit back and just follow she was a born leader. Whenever she was in gatherings or groups, especially with her many cousins, Laura would naturally assume a leadership role even with those older than her. And conversely, they followed her. It was just her nature. It was trait her grandfather espoused. It was her DNA.

She was a very unselfish young girl who loved helping charitable causes as well as raising funds through donations for whatever charity grabbed her attention at the time, usually influenced by stories she would see on the news of people who were facing challenging times or down on their luck. Her caring personality was in her DNA. But no one would benefit from any of any her hard work anymore.

But……Laura would not see another birthday, would not go on another camping trip, would not raise any more charitable funds, because Laura was never born.

Laura was never born because her father was never born because his father, her grandfather, was a police officer in Richmond, Virginia in 1979 who was brutally executed at the young age of 23 while serving the citizens of Richmond.

Michael Connors’ life was stolen from him by a brutal evil violent individual with a history of serious criminal activity to include a previous shooting.

The life of this hero, who would be 64 years old today, was snatched from him before he could ever marry the girl of his dreams and settle down. He would never get to enjoy all the greatness there is in having children and watching them grow. He never would see his kids play school sports or learn how to drive.

And of course, he would never experience the joy of seeing his son get married and start his own family. A family that would later bring into the world Laura Connors, Mike Connors first grandchild.

And he would never get to retire from the Richmond Police Department after a long and successful career, one that he was destined to have. And in those retirement years he would not get to spend those weekends at their secret fishing holes talking all day about anything and everything.

When Michael Connors was executed, when his life was taken through a cold-blooded act of evil, it wasn’t just his life that was lost but all the other lives, generations, that would have been born out of Michael’s life had his not been so violently ripped from him.

There were many victims the day Michael was killed, not just the family that might have been but also the family that was. His parents, siblings, coworkers and friends. And now they are being victimized once again.

The story of Laura is near and dear to me. You see Mike and I came from the same area of Western New York. We went to college together. Mike was ahead of me by a year and I moved to Richmond after my mother passed from cancer in 1980. I started with the Richmond Sheriff’s Office and after a year moved over to the Chesterfield Police Department where I had a very successful career of over 30 years.

I was able to marry. I was able to have 5 wonderful daughters. And now I am expecting my 7th grandchild. I was fortunate. I was blessed. I survived a career with just scrapes and bruises. But Mike’s life was stolen from him by someone with hate and anger in his heart. By a demon who prayed on the citizens of Richmond. Mike will never get to enjoy what I have enjoyed. He never got to enjoy all of life’s joys. And Mike never got to know his granddaughter Laura or a grandchild by any name.

And as a result of that tragic day, November 13, 1979, several people were sentenced to death. But not the man who slayed him. It was Mike’s family. You see they will have to live with the grief of losing a son, losing a brother, losing the chance to have a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews forever.

They will carry that grief, that pain, that wound every day of their lives. It will only dissipate when they depart this world. They are carrying out life sentences while their son and brother’s executioner will be a free man.

And Laura weeps.

Silhouette of a girl covering her face with her hands.

There are no words to describe the honor I had last night after being asked to read the names of the law enforcement officers who lost their lives in 2018 from the states of Utah, Vermont, and Virginia at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial’s 31st Annual Candlelight Vigil. Looking over the masses of law enforcement members and supporters on the National Mall was uplifting at a time we were recognizing the many ultimate sacrifices that were made. And meeting the families of many of those who lost loved ones was humbling to say the least. We are a Nation fortunate to have so many brave men and women who willingly enter a profession where not everyone will respect them, thank them, or even acknowledge them. But after events such as the candlelight vigil last night and the National Law Enforcement Memorial on the lawn of the US Capital today I remain even more in awe of everyone who serves in law enforcement and public safety. No matter what is said in front of the badge the heart of the person behind the badge will always be ready to protect and serve our communities. And for that we are blessed. As it is stated in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”.

~Sheriff Leonard