Honoring heroes: KPD Community Appreciation Day dedicated to fallen officers

Kissimmee Police Department Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter were killed in the line of duty on Aug. 17, 2017.

The Kissimmee Police Department will be hosting a Community Appreciation Day in honor of two exceptional officers who were killed in the line of duty in 2017.

On Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the free event at the police department on Stewart Avenue will help educate residents about the department and the sacrifices the officers make on a daily basis.

Sergeant Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter were shot while on a routine stop nearly two years ago near Cypress Street, an area known for drug activity.

“The trial is coming up and we want to honor their legacy,” said Bailey Myers, public information officer for KPD. “They cared deeply about their community. The families of our fallen officers will be there as well to celebrate the legacy left behind.”

At the time of the shooting, Baxter’s wife also worked for the police department and they had three girls. Howard left behind a wife and daughter. Everett Glenn Miller was arrested soon after and was charged with first-degree murder, resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon.

There will be food, bounce houses, local agencies, a visit from the fire truck, a DJ and tours of the police department. Myers says it is similar to what the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office does to raise awareness in the community. Last year, there was a memorial event to honor the fallen officers and about 3,000 people came. They hope to have that event every five years. This Community Appreciation Day will be held each year.

“We want to keep the community support going and keep their legacy alive,” Myers says. Before this tragic event, the last Kissimmee police officer killed on the job was in 1983.

 “Our hope is to help people understand who our officers are and that they truly care for the community.”

Melissa Zayas Moreno, Kissimmee’s communications and public affairs officer, says the positive event allows the city’s police department to continue fostering relationships with residents and visitors.

“Our law enforcement officers come to work every day willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. We saw the outpouring of support in 2017 when we lost Sergeant Howard and Officer Baxter in the line of duty,” said Moreno.

Howard and Baxter have been honored in several ways since their passing. A blue street light was installed at the location of the shooting as a memorial for them, a Halloween 5K was held as a fundraiser to benefit the families and other events and fundraising efforts have taken place since August 2017.

For Community Appreciation Day, Stewart Avenue will be temporarily shut down and parking will be available on local streets and in parking garages.