Kissimmee community honors officers with vigil

Several restaurants to donate percentage of sales to fallen officers' fund

By Troy Campbell - Reporter

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - A couple of hundred people showed up along Dakin Avenue and Broadway in downtown Kissimmee Thursday night to honor Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter.

Howard and Baxter, from the Kissimmee Police Department, were both husbands and fathers who were fatally shot Friday night while patrolling the community they were dedicated to serve.

The area business community organized a candlelit vigil and welcomed a local pastor to speak to the crowd.

Rafael Herrera said this isn't what he planned for his first trip home after moving to Washington from Kissimmee in July. Herrera took a job as a police chief in Washington after being an officer for the Kissimmee Police Department for 19 years. Herrera said about a month and a half ago, he called Howard to congratulate him on his promotion to sergeant.

"I dropped the box that I was holding onto and I called him up. I could hear his grin through the phone," Herrera said. "I could hear his smile through the phone as I congratulated him, so it's been very hard."

Pastor Tim and Nancy Wilder said it was important for them to speak at the vigil because their son is also a law enforcement officer.

"Just to not live in fear you get that phone call that something has happened -- to hear that it's happened just struck a chord in my heart," Nancy Wilder said.

Herrera said moving forward, the men and woman of the Kissimmee Police Department will live by the word from one of their own: Go out and help someone.

"Matt Baxter put it best: 'Go out and help someone,'" Herrera said. "And you remind the people that you are responsible for every day -- go out and help someone."

At 6 p.m. Friday, several restaurants on Dakin Avenue, including 3 Sisters Speakeasy, will be donating 20 percent of their sales to the fallen officers' fund.

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