KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Two Kissimmee police officers were fatally shot Friday night while responding to a suspicious person call in an area known for drug activity, Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell said.
Sgt. Sam Howard, 36, and Officer Matthew Baxter, 27, responded to Palmway and Cypress streets in Kissimmee at 9:27 p.m. and came into contact with three people, police said.
Minutes later, at 9:32 p.m., both men were shot, O'Dell said.
“It looked like they were surprised,” O'Dell said, adding that the officers did not return fire.
One of the officers was shot in the head at close range, a source told News 6. Both men were wearing their Kissimmee Police Department uniforms and body armor.
Both men were taken to Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee where Baxter died and Howard was in "grave critical condition," authorities said. O'Dell said Friday night that Howard's prognosis was not promising. Howard died Saturday afternoon, Kissimmee police said.
One man was taken into the custody after the shooting. O'Dell described the man as a "strong suspect."
O'Dell said it is believed that there was only one shooter using an unknown firearm, but did not say if that "strong suspect" is believed to be the shooter.
Another man was taken into custody after authorities found him at Roscoe's Bar, sources told News 6.
Sky 6 video from Kissimmee showed crime scene tape and a heavy law enforcement presence outside Roscoe's Bar, which is about a block away from the scene of the shooting.
There is one more person at large. Police said they located and interviewed a person of interest Sunday, but said that person is not a suspect.
The Florida Highway Patrol issued an advisory warning drivers to stay out of the area near U.S. 192 and Orange Blossom Trail due to heavy police activity.
Several law enforcement agencies were assisting with the case.
Condolences from local authorities and politicians quickly poured in on social media as news of the double fatal shooting spread Friday night. Gov. Rick Scott called O’Dell at 11:35 p.m., according to his schedule.
O'Dell said Baxter was a three-year veteran and Howard is a 10-year veteran. Both men are husbands and fathers.
"(The families) are completely heartbroken and devastated. These were beloved fathers and husbands and sons and so we are doing everything in our power to support them and their families at this time," O'Dell said.
Baxter's body was taken early Saturday by a procession of law enforcement officers from across Central Florida to the Osceola County Medical Examiner's Office for further investigation.
Officials initially said both officers had died in the shooting, then O'Dell told the media early Saturday morning that Baxter had died and Howard was being treated.
O'Dell said that his department was struggling with the loss of the fellow officer.
"Although we're aware of what goes on, you know, in law enforcement across the nation, we haven't experienced this in over 25 years," O'Dell said.
Up until Friday night, it had been 34 years since a Kissimmee Police Department officer was killed in the line of duty.
O'Dell said Saturday morning during a press conference that Osceola County deputies arrested the suspect Friday around 11:30 p.m.
Everett Glenn Miller, 45, has been charged with first-degree murder and will be transported to jail in the fallen officer's handcuffs, O'Dell said.
O'Dell said detectives were able to identify Miller through video, but did not say how the video was obtained.
"We had a small snippet of video that placed suspect at the scene at the time of the stop. Based on the description received from that, they were able to identify the suspect," O'Dell said.
As deputies were approaching Miller, who was found at Roscoe's Bar, Miller reached toward his waistband, the police chief said. O'Dell said deputies tackled him to the ground and secured him while other people were inside the bar. Police said Miller was found with two firearms on him when he was taken into custody.
O'Dell called the deputies' actions "extremely brave and heroic."
Police said Miller was a Marines veteran who was recently baker acted by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, but officers did not say why.
O'Dell said no other arrests or charges against Miller were immediately anticipated.
Investigators are still interviewing several witnesses, and said that Miller is not cooperating with the investigation. Other than that, officers are not saying much else as they continue to piece together what led to the shooting. More charges are pending for Miller.
The police chief also said that Baxter had responded to the area and may have became involved in a "scuffle" with three people. Police originally said that Baxter had arrived to check on four people. O'Dell also said that Baxter originally responded to the area and Howard came shortly after as backup.
Howard remained in "grave critical condition" until Saturday afternoon and O'Dell said there was "not much hope" that he would survive his injuries.
Kissimmee police said just before 3 p.m. that Howard died as a result of his injuries.
"It is with heavy heart that we announce the passing of Sergeant Richard “Sam” Howard. Sam succumbed to his injuries this afternoon," the Police Department posted on its Facebook.
Police said city officials have set up an account through SunTrust Bank for anyone who would like to donate to the fallen officers' families. Donations can be made to the account, titled "City of Kissimmee," beginning Monday at any SunTrust Bank, officers said.
O'Dell said in the Facebook post that officers would be mourning throughout the coming days.
"We will get through this and we love them for what they do," O'Dell said.
Two officers were also shot in Jacksonville Friday night, according to News 6 partner WJXT. One officer is in stable condition and the other is in critical condition.
Miller made his first appearance in court Sunday morning. A judge ordered Miller to be held without bond on one count of first-degree premeditated murder. Miller is also being held on charges of resisting arrest without violence and carrying a concealed weapon in a specific location, the judge said.
Stay with News 6 and ClickOrlando.com for updates on this developing story.
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