Kissimmee officer had ties to Jefferson
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Matthew Baxter, 27, a three-year veteran with the Kissimmee Police Department, was shot and killed in the line of duty Friday, Aug. 18.
Baxter was a 2009 graduate of Jefferson High School, where he played football. He leaves behind friends and family in the Eastern Panhandle who are devastated by his death.
Also shot was 10-year veteran officer Sgt. Sam Howard, who later died of gunshots wounds received when he responded as back up to Baxter to a call of suspicious persons in an area known for drug activity, according to Associated Press reports.
“It looks like they were surprised,” said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell.
Neither officer returned fire, reports show.
JaRon Puller, of Harpers Ferry, is cousin to Baxter. Puller shared fond memories of the two of them spending summers together in Shenandoah Junction, where Puller grew up.
“We used to play football in that field where the historic Ruritan building is,” Puller said. “Then (Baxter) left but he came back when we were in high school. We hung out all the time.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty lamented, not only the death of a Jefferson County native, but a brother in blue.
“It is always sad to see any officer killed in the line of duty, but to have such a young man with such potential, it makes me sick to see this happen,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty was serving as president of the Jefferson County Board of Education when Baxter graduated in 2009.
“As president of the BOE, I signed his diploma then,” Dougherty said in a Facebook post Sunday. “Eight years later I am sheriff of Jefferson County posting about this fine young man’s death.”
Three suspects are in custody, including Everett Glen Miller, who has been charged with first degree murder, it was announced Saturday.
Baxter was married to a fellow officer on the Kissimmee force. The two had four children, ranging in age from seven years to seven months old.
Baxter was described on a GoFundMe page established to aid his family as “an active member of his community, dedicating his free time to volunteering with organizations such as Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Operation Chill and YMCA’s ‘Get Your Game On.'”
Puller, mourning the loss of his cousin and friend, shared how the two would walk to ball games, go to friend’s houses, do things with their church youth group and just hang out – a lot of times talking about cars.
“We shared a lot of memories,” Puller said. ” I just wish I could have seen him one last time.”