Police Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard were shot and killed while responding to reports of three suspicious people in the area of Palmway Street and Cypress Street at approximately 9:30 pm.
They were speaking to the men when a scuffle ensued and both officers were shot. Both were transported to Osceola Regional Medical Center where Officer Baxter was pronounced dead. Sergeant Howard passed away the following afternoon.
The subject who shot him Miller, 48 a Marine Corps veteran and he was found guilty of first-degree murder on Sept. 11 in the 2017 killings. Outside the courthouse, Baxter’s widow, Sadia Baxter, said “justice was served” with the jury’s decision and was arrested approximately two hours after the shooting by members of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
Two handguns were found in his possession when he was arrested. In September 2019 the man was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. In November 2019 the jury recommended he receive the death penalty.
Officer Baxter served with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He is survived by his wife and three children.
“Me and my girls will be able to move forward,” Baxter said, her voice shaking. “We won’t forget about our heroes. But I think it’s time as we came to this conclusion to start closing this chapter.”
Kissimmee police Chief Jeff O’Dell said the jury’s verdict sent a message to law enforcement.
“This won’t be tolerated,” O’Dell said. “We’re better than what happened this night.”
Miller could only be sent to death row if jurors recommended it unanimously. Circuit Judge Greg A. Tynan will decide later whether to follow the jury’s recommendation or sentence Miller to life in prison.
The case was scheduled for a status hearing on Dec. 20. 2019 where Miller will have an opportunity to persuade the judge against a death sentence at another hearing, which hasn’t been scheduled.