Police Officer Ernest Kearns Ponce de Leon

Police Officer Ernest Kearns Ponce de Leon

Tallahassee Police Department, Florida

End of Watch Friday, July 8, 1988

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Ernest Kearns Ponce de Leon

Police Officer Ernest Ponce de Leon was shot and killed while assisting another officer during a suspicious vehicle call at the intersection of Levy Avenue and Lake Bradford Road.

The occupants of the vehicle had claimed that their identification was packed in luggage in the trunk. One of the occupants was accompanied by the other officer to the trunk while Officer Ponce de Leon covered them. Suddenly two of the men pulled out handguns and opened fire, striking Officer Ponce de Leon, who was not wearing a vest, in the chest.

One of the suspects was shot and wounded by the other officer. All of the suspects were apprehended as backup officers arrived on the scene. It was learned that the suspects had escaped from the Maryland Department of Corrections several days prior. The 33-year-old suspect who shot Officer Ponce de Leon was sentenced to death and the others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

The suspect sentenced to death died in prison on October 27th, 2015, of natural causes.

Officer Ponce de Leon was survived by his son and daughter.


  • Age 40
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge 647

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Died in prison

escapee, suspicious vehicle

Most Recent Reflection

View all 43 Reflections

Officer Ponce de Leon, Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of your End of Watch. On that tragic day I was still forging my pathway into a law enforcement career, one which would ultimately land me in Tallahassee. Later, while attending the Law Enforcement Academy, I learned of your life of service and of your sacrifice for your partner on that scene and for your community in standing the line between good and evil. While you did your best that day, God had other plans for you. Those plans included using your story in training new recruits like myself in officer safety, officer survival, and to always expect the unexpected. One of my FTOs also recounted the incident, offering several tactical considerations for use in my own career. (Thank you GIO)
In the twenty-six years since I pinned on a star with LCSO, I rarely pass that location without recalling the story of the event and the sacrifice that both you and Greg made that day. While your sacrifice was ultimate, Greg's is certainly one which he lives with every day and shouldn't be forgotten either. (Thank you Greg)
Thank you Officer Ponce de Leon for the lasting and positive impressions of law enforcement that you made in our community, for the stories your life inspired, and for the sacrifice you made for all of us as a community and as a profession.

Sgt. RD
Leon Co Sheriff's Office

July 8, 2022

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