ORLANDO, Fla. - Two Kissimmee police officers described their colleagues Thursday before a funeral service for the fallen officers.
Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard were shot and killed Friday night in the line of duty.
Kissimmee police Sgt. Ian Downing detailed Howard's life, saying he had an infectious smile and valued time with his family more than anything else.
Howard, who leaves behind a fiancee and daughter, was born and raised in Kissimmee. He served in the Army and fought in Iraq.
Upon his return to the United States, he continued to serve by joining the Kissimmee Police Department, Downing said.
Downing said Howard's smile "would brighten the darkest of days" and he believed in the best of others, an outlook that is desperately needed.
Howard, who was also a member of the SWAT team, enjoyed cars, music and weightlifting.
"We love you, Sam," Downing said, adding that he and the rest of the KPD will be there for his family, "just as you were always there for us."
Baxter grew up in Baltimore and moved to Central Florida after high school. He attended Valencia State College and the University of Central Florida.
He leaves behind a wife and four children.
Kissimmee police Capt. Jeff Tambasco described Baxter as a "young, eager man dedicated to anything he chose to do," and someone who was dedicated to his family, law enforcement and the community he served."
"I knew Matthew could achieve greatness," Tambasco said. "He's what every officer strives to be: professional, courageous and compassionate."
Baxter recently requested to change shifts so he could spend more time with his children.
When Tambasco asked when he would sleep, he replied, "Whenever I can, but the kids come first."
Baxter also joined Big Brothers and Sisters of America, "so (he could) have a positive impact on a young person's life."
The officers thanked the community for their support throughout "this tragic event."
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