A Minnesota National Guardsman who was stationed in Minneapolis during the recent riots was just getting started when his life was cut short in a head-on collision in Washington County on Thursday.
Spc. Samuel Leedom, 20, of Oak Park Heights, was driving north on Manning Avenue in West Lakeland Township about 6:30 p.m., doing deliveries for DoorDash.
According to the Washington County sheriff’s office, Leedom, who was driving a Nissan Sentra, crossed over the center lane into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with a dump truck near 22nd Street. The crash remains under investigation.
“My son touched so many people. He’s an amazing boy,” his mother, Heidi Leedom, said through tears Monday. She said the news of his death has been like a bad dream from which she can’t wake up.
She thought maybe her son was in trouble when a Washington County sheriff’s deputy pulled up in front of her house Thursday night.
“I said, ‘What’s wrong? Is it Sam?’ I remember he said, ‘I’m so sorry to say this, but your son passed away in an accident,’” she said. “I went numb and then I dropped. I don’t remember anything after that. I didn’t believe him. I said I wanted to see him.”
Leedom was born March 30, 2000, at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater to Heidi and Christopher Leedom.
“I remember his hair was so thick and curly like his mama,” she said. “He hated it.”
He attended St. Croix Catholic School, Oak Heights Elementary School and graduated from Stillwater High School in 2018.
He loved the outdoors and played several sports. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother’s boyfriend, Bobby Bischoff, taught him how to hunt. He shot his first deer with a bow and arrow at age 13. His grandfather Jack Terhaar took him on several road trips to see the United States, and Bischoff’s mother, Susan Bischoff, was his adoptive grandmother who always baked him banana bread.
He leaves behind a half brother, Jady Wright, 25, and a half sister Mackenzie Leedom, 13.
Leedom loved shooting guns and knew he wanted to be in the military one day, his mother said.
At age 17, he enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard and went through boot camp. He graduated from high school in 2018 and completed his training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri that summer. He served with the Guard in the 34th Military Police Company in Stillwater while also working a factory job. Due to COVID-19, he had recently been laid off from his job, so he took up the DoorDash position as temporary work, his mother said.
His family and his instructors at the Guard described him as someone who never met a stranger and didn’t mind hard work.
“He’d be the life of the party,” his mother said. “He’s got that million-dollar smile. He’s a jokester, a smart ass. He touched everybody.”
“He was not one to sit down,” said Sgt. Brad Anderson. “He was striving to become a leader. He wanted to be a leader in the worst way.”
According to Capt. Troy Davidson, commander of the 34th Military Police Company, Leedom “recently answered the call to state active duty in support of the civil unrest in the Twin Cities. Samuel’s presence in our formation will be severely missed.”
Heidi remembers the day he got the call to go work in Minneapolis when violence erupted following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in police custody.
“The adrenaline I could see on my kid’s face, the excitement, being leery of what he was going to be going into,” she said. “I said, ‘Drive safely.’ He stayed until the middle of June.”
Anderson had been impressed with Leedom’s easygoing way with people and his eager commitment to serving his country.
“He was a very social kid,” Anderson said. “He lit up a room. He loved to talk to people. He continuously asked to be able to train in different aspects. He never hesitated. He was up and ready to go at a moment’s notice. He had great potential.”
Leedom’s mother found that when her son joined the Guard she inherited a family.
“The Guard has been so amazing,” she said.
The Hall Family Foundation will be hosting its Veterans Honor Annual Golf Classic on Aug. 8 at White Eagle Golf Course in Hudson, Wis. The foundation told Heidi Leedom they plan to use $10,000 of the funds raised as a scholarship in Leedom’s name to go toward the education of a new recruit.
Leedom’s unit is set to ship out to Cuba Aug. 10. But before they go, they’ll say goodbye to him during a closed memorial service Aug. 9 at the Stillwater Armory.
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