By Rachel Christian
A blue light now shines in a place once darkened by the death of two fallen Kissimmee Police Department officers.
Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) unveiled a permanent memorial streetlight in
Kissimmee Saturday night to honor the lives and service of Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter, both of whom were killed in the line of duty last year.
The custom LED light, built and donated by Acuity Brands, was put into service in the precise location where the men were shot on Aug. 18, 2017. KUA took to social media Aug. 18 to share a unique feature about the memorial fixture.
“An amazing thing about the newly-installed Baxter-Howard memorial light is when a person walks on the street beneath it the light casts a thin blue line around their shadow,” read a KUA tweet, “providing a visual reminder that Sam and Matthew are always with us.”
Baxter and Howard were on patrol near the interaction at Palmway and Cypress streets in Kissimmee Aug. 18, when suspect Everett Miller, 46, allegedly shot the two officers before fleeing to Roscoe’s Bar. Everett was later taken into custody where he now faces first-degree murder charges in connection with their deaths.
But Saturday focused on the men’s lives rather then their deaths. A special community barbecue was hosted by KPD Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. It featured entertainment, games and activities. An estimated 2,600 residents attended the event, according to KPD Public Information Officer Stacie Miller.
A slew of corporate sponsors and nonprofits stepped up to play their part in backing the blue, including Target, AT&T and Disney World.
Members from the American Legion Post 10 also helped by providing free hamburgers to attendees. Commander Dan Bush said his organization made the donation after learning the original vendor canceled on organizers two days before the barbecue.
His group donated the food, along with a $1,000 check from the Legion’s sister group, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 148.
“We have to be there to support those who help the community,” Bush said about the generous gesture and donation. “And in this case, to support the family of the lost officers.”
Sadia Baxter, Officer Baxter’s widow and a fellow law enforcement officer, was given a bike by Team South Florida, a nonprofit that honors law enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty.