No chance to return fire
A police officer in Florida died from his injuries Saturday, a day after his colleague was killed when a suspect fired at them during a scuffle while they were on patrol. The suspect was later arrested at a bar.
Sgt. Sam Howard died Saturday afternoon at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee, Florida, located south of the theme park hub of Orlando.
Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night, a short time after authorities say he was shot by 45-year-old Everett Miller.
Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Baxter. Authorities hadn’t yet said what charges he could face for Howard’s death.
During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.
The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire. They weren’t wearing body cameras.
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, O’Dell said.
They found a handgun and revolver on him.
“They were extremely brave and heroic actions taken by the deputies,” O’Dell said.
The police chief said Miller was taken to jail wearing Baxter’s handcuffs.
Authorities originally said they believed there were four suspects, but the chief said Saturday that no other arrests are anticipated.
Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation shows that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.
Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.
Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child, O’Dell said.
“They are two wonderful men, family men,” O’Dell said. “They are two committed to doing it the right way.”
Separately, two other officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where the mother of the man’s child, their 19-month-old toddler, the woman’s mother and a family friend were thought to be in danger. One of the officers was shot in both hands and the other was shot in the stomach.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Saturday that officers Michael Fox and Kevin Jarrell are in stable condition following Friday night’s confrontation with an armed Derrick Brabham, who was killed by the officers.
In Pennsylvania, two state troopers were shot and a suspect killed outside a small-town store south of Pittsburgh on Friday night.
In a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, a suspect was fatally shot and an officer injured after they got into a struggle.
President Trump tweeted early Saturday that his thoughts and prayers were with the Kissimmee Police Department. “We are with you!” he said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted he was “heartbroken” by the attacks on the officers.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto said Saturday that he will ask for American flags to be flown over the U.S. Capitol and he plans to ask for a moment of silence on the floor of the U.S. House to honor the officers.
The officers were fatally shot in a district where the top prosecutor says she will no longer seek the death penalty. State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek the death penalty, explaining it’s not a deterrent and it drags on for years for the victims’ relatives. The announcement came as her office was building a case against Markeith Loyd, who is charged with the fatal shooting of an Orlando Police lieutenant.
Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday evening issued an executive order removing the case from Ayala and reassigning it.
“Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of last night’s attack and their families receive the justice they deserve,” Scott said in the order.
A spokeswoman for Ayala didn’t respond to an email inquiry seeking comment.