Friday was not a good day for the men and women in blue.
In three separate incidents – two in Florida and one in Pennsylvania – six law-enforcement officers were shot in the line of duty. Two have died along with two of the shooting suspects.
Officers Sam Howard and Matthew Baxter – 10- and three-year veterans, respectively, of the Kissimmee, Florida, Police Department, were gunned down Friday evening in an area known for drug activity. While checking three suspects, a man identified as Everett Glenn Miller, 45, opened fire on the officers and fled. Neither Howard or Baxter had the opportunity to return fire with their service weapons.
Miller was apprehended and charged with first-degree murder following Baxter’s death at the hospital Friday. Additional charges are pending following Howard’s death Saturday afternoon. Miller does not have an extensive criminal history, officials reported.
“This is devastating to law enforcement and heart breaking,” Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell said. “They were the epitome of what you ask for in law enforcement officers.”
O’Dell said the evidence so far points toward the shooting having been an ambush.
Baxter, 27, was married to another police officer and was father to four young children.
President Trump tweeted condolences Friday evening, saying: “My thoughts and prayers are with the @KissimmeePolice and their loved ones. We are with you!”
Florida’s second police shooting occurred in Jacksonville where Officers Michael Fox and Kevin Jarrell were shot in an unexpected gun battle with an assailant only feet away from them.
For Fox, an 11-year veteran of the Jacksonville police force, this was his second shooting incident. Jarrell is a three-year veteran.
As the pair approached the doorway of a house in response to a report of an attempted suicide, they heard gunfire inside. Before they could enter, the suspect opened fire.
“We’re talking a gun battle within four or five feet of each other,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said during a Saturday press conference. “The suspect fired at the officers, two officers were struck … and the suspect in the exchange of gunfire was struck twice by the officers.”
The shooter, identified as Derrick Rashard Brabham, 25, had no prior criminal history. He died from his wounds. Authorities say alcohol may have been a factor in his behavior.
In Pennsylvania, it was state troopers who were the targets of what is being called a “senseless, inexplicable act of violence,” reported WPKI News.
The officers, who have not been identified, had approached Clarence Allan Belsar II, 26, of Fairchance in the parking lot of a Shop ‘n Save regarding a PlayStation he had offered for sale on Facebook, an item they suspected was linked to a series of recent burglaries.
Neither was in uniform or wearing a bullet-proof vest.
When they identified themselves as officers, Belsar walked away and ignored verbal commands to stop. The pair then attempted to physically restrain Belsar, but he pulled a .38-caliber revolver and fired one shot that struck both troopers.
The officers returned fire, striking Belsar several times. Witnesses described hearing as many as 15 gunshots. Belsar was pronounced dead at the scene.
One officer received a wound in the hand and was treated and released from the hospital. The second officer was shot in the abdomen and is classified in critical condition.