Event honors slain Kissimmee officers one year after their deaths

Community barbecue held at Kissimmee Lakefront Park

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Two Kissimmee Police officers who were fatally shot while responding to a call one year ago Saturday were honored and remembered at a community barbecue.

The Kissimmee Police Department hosted the free event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Kissimmee Lakefront Park. 

Officials said the goal of the event was to celebrate the lives of Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter while simultaneously thanking the community for the outpouring of support the department received in the aftermath of the tragedy.

"The month of May was a time for the Department to visit the police memorials held in Tallahassee and Washington D.C.," Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O'Dell said. "Those events were very important in the healing process and for members of the department to see how our heroes are honored and will never be forgotten. It is time now for a lighter event, giving members of the department a chance to have fun and fellowship with our community.  We want to appreciate the community that wrapped their arms around us when we needed it most.  We are committed to keeping the momentum."

Games, entertainment and food were available at what the Kissimmee Police Department hopes will become an annual event.

"This is so glorious, and so wonderful, to think that a community can come together a year later and feel so strongly that we are a community," Penny Patterson said while attending the event.

Police said Everett Miller, 46, fatally shot both officers during an interaction at Palmway and Cypress streets in Kissimmee at 9:27 p.m. Aug. 18, 2017, then fled to Roscoe's Bar, where he was taken into custody. He faces first-degree murder charges in connection with their deaths.

Friends and colleagues said Howard and Baxter were passionate about serving the community and they did it with smiles on their faces. Both were husbands and fathers who left behind families.

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