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A City in Mourning, A Community United

Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 10:35 am

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
The joint funeral for the two Kissimmee Police Department officers shot and killed Friday night on the streets they were sworn to serve on and protect will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Orlando.
City of Kissimmee administrative offices will be closed to the public to allow all employees to attend services for Officer Matthew Baxter, 27, and Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard, 38. Public safety services will continue in Kissimmee with the help of surrounding agencies.

Where and how
The area north of Vine Street and east of Orange Blossom Trail, often considered the McLaren Circle area even

A memorial is on display at the Kissimmee Police Department honoring Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter who were shot and killed on Friday night.

though that street is a few more blocks north, requires such a police presence that the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the Kissimmee Police Department have a joint enforcement agreement in the area.
On Friday, while KPD responded to the intersection of Cypress and Palmway Streets, where Baxter and Howard were shot to death, Sheriff’s Office deputies and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper apprehended suspect Everett Glenn Miller at Roscoe’s Bar, about a half-mile away, two hours later.
“When deputies approached the suspect, he reached toward his waistband,” KPD Chief Jeff O’Dell said. “Through extremely brave and heroic actions by the deputies, they tackled him to the floor.”
Miller, 45, had a 9-millimeter handgun and a .22 caliber revolver when caught. He has been charged with first-degree murder, resistance without violence and possession of a firearm in an establishment serving alcohol, and is scheduled to enter a plea on Aug. 31 at 8 a.m.
Luke Fisher, a deputy who responded to the scene Friday night all the way from his Four Corners watch area, said he was amazed at the response, from agencies even one or two counties away, during the incident and in the aftermath.
“They were great that night, the next morning, they’ve been great all week,”
he said.”

Howard: family man, always had ‘a big smile’
Fisher is the son, nephew and cousin of police officers spread between the two outfits. He attended the police academy with Howard, who came from a military background. Howard was a co-worker and family friend to most of the Fisher family, who between KPD and the Sheriff’s Office has made law enforcement “the family business.”
“I knew coming from the military, he had the heart to serve,” Fisher said. “We’ve all worked with Sam at some point, often in that area. It’s in the city, but as part of our joint agreement in that area, we’ve made stops hundreds of times at that intersection.”
He said that, as an officer, Howard, who had just advanced to the rank of sergeant earlier this year, was “always a professional.”
“He was always there to help, and I always knew I could count on him,” Fisher said. “But we knew him as a family man, too, and he always had a big smile. I never saw him in a bad mood.”

Baxter: A passion to serve
Matt Rivera left KPD just over a month ago to join the San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Sheriff’s Office but spent the 11 years prior to that with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and KPD, where for his last eight months he was Baxter’s zone partner.
Rivera said Baxter spoke passionately about everything in his life, his family, wife and four children, and about his job aspirations.
“We both have stepchildren. We both have daughters named Isabella, so we talked a lot about those bonds,” he said. “He spoke about his upbringing, which is what led him to join the force. He had a strong desire to help others.”
Rivera said Baxter loved being proactive in the community to help residents.
“We backed each other up. He loved learning about the job. He was working toward becoming detective,” he said. “Plus, he was a great guy. I’d already planned to fly in (this weekend) and he and his wife were going to pick me up from the airport. He was going to work an overtime shift Friday. He said he’d be tired but he’d be there.”
Rivera said his struggle is that Baxter, who moved from the night shift to day shift to work with Rivera, went back to night work after he left for California.
“I feel like if I’d still been there, he’d be there with me,” Rivera said. “It’s been hard.”
Law enforcement is also the Rivera family business; his father was, and his brother is, with the California Highway Patrol.
“Everybody knows how I knew Matthew, so my family’s affected by it,”
he said.