It was a grave weekend for law enforcement across the United States, with two officers killed in the line of duty and several others injured in separate incidents. The latest tragedies mean 82 officers have died in the this year according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, as anti-police rhetoric continues to be ratcheted up.
Around 9:30 p.m. on Friday in Kissimmee, Florida, Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter were patrolling an area with a known drug problem in the north part of the city when they were gravely shot at. According to Kissimmee Chief Jeff O’Dell, the officers were searching several suspects when someone in the group opened fire. Neither Howard nor Baxter were able to return fire, leading O’Dell to speculate they “were surprised by the gunfire.”
— Isabel Rosales (@WFTSisabel) August 19, 2017
By 1 a.m. on Saturday, Officer Baxter had succumbed to his injuries, and Sgt. Howard passed away later that day. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the shooting sparked a manhunt for the suspect, and hours later, Osceola Sheriff’s Deputies apprehended 45-year-old Everett Glenn Miller at a bar not far from the scene. He was reportedly taken to Osceola County Jail in Officer Baxter’s handcuffs and charged with first-degree murder, resisting arrest, and carrying a concealed weapon.
As the Washington Post reported, President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott both tweeted condolences, while investigators uncovered a history of anti-police comments and actions on Miller’s social media accounts.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) August 19, 2017
About 90 minutes after the fatal shootings in Kissimmee, two officers were fired at by a suspect wielding a rifle in Jacksonville, Florida. According to the Florida Times-Union, veteran officers Michael Fox and Kevin Jarrell were responding to a call involving a suicidal man armed with a gun, who was holed up in his home with a 19-month-old child and three others.
When officers broke down the door at the scene, suspect Derrick Rashard Brabham, 25, fired a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle at close range, striking Fox in both hands and Jarell in the stomach just below his protective vest. Brabham was killed during an ensuing firefight with police.
“They were encountered by the suspect immediately,” Sheriff Mike Williams said Saturday. “He basically immediately opened fire on the officers just inside the threshold of the door.”
The baby and three women who were in the home with Brabham were unharmed in the incident, and both officers are said to be in stable condition. But given the power of the weapon, Williams told reporters his men are lucky to be alive.
“The body armor that we wear does not stop this kind of rifle,” he said. “There’s not a lot that’s designed that you could wear on a daily basis to stop that, and these officers know that.”
All the while, two Pennsylvania State troopers were shot at around 8 p.m. on Friday south of Pittsburgh during an encounter with a robbery suspect. WPVI-TV reports that the troopers confronted 26-year-old Clarence Belsar III outside a grocery store in Fairchance. The suspect opened fire on the officers, who were able to return fire, killing Belsar. One trooper was critically injured in the firefight and remains hospitalized, while the other was treated and released. District Attorney Richard Bower said Belsar had a felony criminal record.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the officers and families impacted by the violence.
(H/T: Washington Post)