Memorial grows for fallen Kissimmee police officers

Matthew Baxter, Sam Howard slain in line of duty

By Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - A memorial for two fallen officers continues to grow outside the Kissimmee Police Department.

Officer Matthew Baxter, 27, and Sgt. Sam Howard, 36, were shot and killed late Friday in a neighborhood that has a history of drug activity.

Everett Miller, 45, was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in Baxter's death. More charges are forthcoming, officials said.

A memorial consisting of flowers, balloons and letters was created outside the police department, where a vigil was held Sunday for the fallen officers.

"I wrote, 'Dear Lord, please bless these two officers and help them with their needs," said Josh Marano, a young boy who attended the vigil.

[WATCH BELOW: Osceola deputies surprise Sgt. Howard's daughter on her birthday]

"My heart is broken, but I know that we're going to come out even better than what we were. I know we will," Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

According to Kissimmee police, Baxter was "checking out" three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with him. 

O'Dell said Howard, Baxter's sergeant, responded as backup and Miller opened fire, shooting both officers, who did not have an opportunity to return fire. 

O'Dell said sheriff's deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, officials said.

A judge on Sunday denied bond for Miller, saying there was probable cause for his first-degree murder charge. He also faces charges of resisting arrest and carrying a concealed weapon. Charges in Howard's death are expected to be filed this week.

Miller wore handcuffs and shackles during the first appearance hearing that lasted 90 seconds. When it was over, he said, "Thank you, your honor."

Gov. Rick Scott over the weekend reassigned Miller's case to State Attorney Brad King from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who said in March that she would not seek the death penalty in any case prosecuted by her office.

A person of interest in the case was located by authorities and questioned over the weekend, police said. 

Maribel King is not considered a suspect, but police have not released any details about her connection to the case.

A processional carried Howard's body Monday morning from the hospital to the Medical Examiner's Office in Orlando.

Baxter and Howard were not wearing body cameras, O'Dell said.

Funeral services for Baxter and Howard will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of Orlando at 3000 S. John Young Parkway.

In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted for the officers’ families through a SunTrust account set up by the city of Kissimmee.  The account name is City of Kissimmee – Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard. The account number 1000193639936.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office posted a video on Facebook Monday of fellow law enforcement officers who came together to surprise Sgt. Howard's daughter, Unique, at her job on her birthday. People gathered around as they sang her "Happy Birthday" and presented her with a birthday cake.

The Sheriff's Office also tweeted pictures of the surprise celebration.

Meanwhile, two other officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide.

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