KISSIMMEE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) –
(UPDATE 8/19) STATEMENT FROM KISSIMMEE POLICE:
It is with heavy heart that we announce the passing of Sergeant Richard “Sam” Howard. Sam succumbed to his injuries this afternoon.
In the evening of August 18, 2017, Officer Matthew Baxter checked out with three males in the area of Cypress and Palmway.
Sergeant Sam Howard was in the area and responded to Baxter’s call. Details of the exact exchange between Baxter, Howard and the suspect Everett Miller are still under investigation.
Shortly after the exchange, a 9-1-1 call was received stating two officers were down. Matthew Baxter succumbed to his injuries shortly after.
The City of Kissimmee has set up a bank account through SunTrust for those who would like to donate to the fallen officers’ families.
The account will be titled City of Kissimmee – Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard. Donations can be made at any SunTrust Bank beginning Monday, August 21, 2017.
“I am so proud of the sworn and civilian members of our Department by acting quickly to identify the suspect and bring him to justice. We will mourn over the next few days….we will get through this and we love them for what they do,” said Chief Jeff O’Dell.
The Kissimmee Police Department said two of their officers were shot in a downtown area on Friday night.
One of those officers has died and the other is left gravely injured, according to Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.
FOX 35 had earlier reported that both officers had died, based on early information.
Officer Matthew Baxter was shot and died. He was a father of four and what Police Chief O’Dell describes as the “epitome of an officer.” He served three years with the force.
The other officer shot, Sergeant Richard “Sam” Howard, is in grave condition. Chief O’Dell says that there is “not much hope he will survive this.” He is a 10-year veteran.
The shootings happened as the two officers were near the intersection of Palmway and Cypress streets, around 9 p.m. on Friday.
Police reported in an early Saturday morning press conference that Everett Glenn Miller was taken into custody at 11:30 Friday night and charged with 1st degree murder. Watch that live stream below.
Kissimmee Police Chief O’Dell says Miller will be transported to Osceola County Jail wearing Officer Baxter’s handcuffs.
The initial charge for Miller was a concealed weapon inside a bar.
The two officers were responding to a call of suspicious activity around 9 p.m., Chief O’Dell said during a news conference.
“At approximately 9:32, we received our first call… that our officers were shot,” he said.
Reportedly, a scuffle led to the officers being shot. Baxter was shot first. Howard was when attempting to back up Baxter.
O’Dell said other responding officers found the two officers on the roadway when they arrived at the scene. Chief O’Dell said both were taken to Osceola Regional Medical Center.
Neither officers were able to fire off their weapons, according to police. Neither weapon was even removed from the officer’s holster.
Police say that neither officer were wearing body cameras either.
After the shooting, Miller hid inside Roscoe’s Bar & Packaging at 2344 N. Orange Blossom Trail, where he was found by police detectives.
These detectives say that Miller reached for his waistband inside the bar when confronted by police, but the detectives tackled him and took him down.
Chief O’Dell originally said there were four suspects in total. Three had been taken into custody, and one was still being sought early Saturday.
However, as of Saturday morning’s conference, O’Dell has stated that they are not pursuing any further arrests.
He went on to tell reporters that it has been a dark day for his colleagues as they try to cope with this tragedy.
“These were beloved fathers and husbands and sons,” said O’Dell. “We haven’t experienced this in over 25 years.”
A small memorial is already growing outside of the Kissimmee Police headquarters.
Chief O’Dell says that “We sincerely appreciate our community” for all their support during this time.
Before details of the shootings were immediately known, community leaders and other law enforcement officers began sending condolences over Twitter. This was before it was learned that one officer had died and the other was in grave condition.
“Heartbreaking loss of two of Kissimmee’s finest officers. Please join in prayers for families, friends, and law enforcement,” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs tweeted.
“Sending out prayers,” tweeted Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
The Winter Park Police Department echoed the sentiment, “We stand with our brothers and sisters at the Kissimmee Police Department. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved.”
“Hard night to look at Twitter. Just want to reach through the screen and comfort the families — our Family,” posted Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
Early Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers are with the @KissimmeePolice and their loved ones. We are with you!”
Less than an hour after two police officers were killed in Kissimmee, Florida, reports of two officers being shot in Jacksonville. Read updates on that developing story here.
Below is our Facebook live stream of our coverage, which includes one of Chief O’Dell’s news conference.