Slain Kissimmee officer's widow prays for end to gun violence
Sadia Baxter says she remains motivated in face of grief
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – In 2017, 45 law enforcement officers across the country were killed as a result of firearms.
That's according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization that has long tracked officer deaths.
Sadia Baxter's husband, Kissimmee police Officer Matthew Baxter, was among those slain heroes, along with Sgt. Sam Howard.
Her husband's death brought grief, but Baxter said it also brought a whole new perspective and outlook on her life. The mother of three now wears his wedding band and a small replica of his badge on a necklace.
The two pieces look small to the eye but hold enormous meaning for Baxter. There's even more meaning in the inscription on the back of the badge.
Inscribed are words from a letter Matthew Baxter wrote to his wife a month before he was shot and killed in the line of duty.
"Number one: what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger... better... wiser. Number two: God above all else. Number three: love is the cure for evil, affliction, pain, forgiveness, sorrow and relationships," Matthew Baxter wrote. "Number four: in my eyes you are the most beautiful and tender hearted woman I know and number five: I will always love you."
On the night of Aug. 18, 2017, Matthew Baxter responded to a call at Palmway and Cypress streets, an area known for drug activity.
Cellphone video from that night shows Everett Miller, the man charged with the officers' deaths, interacting with Baxter first.
Moments later, Howard arrived. The two officers were shot in the head, according to authorities.
Officer Baxter died that night. Howard died the next day.
"Not only did I lose my partner in life, but I lost the father to my daughters," Baxter said.
Miller was no stranger to deputies or guns. He's a former Marine who served more than 20 years in the service.
Just six weeks prior to the shooting deaths of the officers, he was involuntarily committed under Florida's Baker Act after he was seen walking around in his underwear, pointing a gun, along Old Dixie Highway, records show.
He was released from a treatment center three days later.
Baxter doesn't like to comment on Miller or her thoughts on his access to guns given his past.
Instead, she's focusing her attention elsewhere.
"I wouldn't say it ever gets easier, but I am extremely motivated because I have these three beautiful princesses who keep me going every day. I strive to be a better person. A better mom," Sadia Baxter said.
Proof of her motivation was shown 10 days after she said goodbye to her husband, when she was sworn in as a special agent with the Federal Department of Law Enforcement.
Her determination to better her community doesn't end there.
She also devotes her time to Valencia College as an adjunct professor. It is the same college she and her husband attended.
"I know his spirit is still here with us and I want to continue to forever live the Baxter legacy," she said.
Baxter credits her faith and community support in helping her get through the rough days.
Gun violence may never truly end, but that doesn't mean she's going to stop striving to change that.
"I pray that this violence doesn't continue with other individuals, but I pray that I can be a vessel and be a voice to people so that they know that they're not alone," Baxter said.
When the bleak days creep in, she reaches for her necklace, which reminds her that love and humanity are still there, even if we can't see it.
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