Many people shed tears at the Kissimmee Police Department Saturday, where a memorial is set up for Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard, who died as a result of a Friday night shooting.
“How do you say goodbye to somebody when he died so senselessly? It was before his time,” said Merf Feliciano, who knew Howard.
People added flowers, cards with condolences and other sentimental items to the growing memorial at the police department, showing support for the officers, their families and the police department.
“It’s got to stop. We’ve got to treat these guys better,” Feliciano said. “We’ve got to back them. We’ve got to love them. They’re there to help us.”
Feliciano knew Howard from car shows. He recalled good memories, while paying his respects at the memorial Saturday.
“Music, suspension, just a general car lover,” he said about Howard. “I met him on the show scene five, six years ago, maybe seven now and been friends with him ever since.”
Howard died at Osceola Medical Center Saturday. Baxter was pronounced dead there shortly after the shooting.
“Our best efforts were made. It’s really emotional,” said Rob Benoit, a paramedic at Osceola Regional Medical Center.
Both had worked security detail at the hospital while working for the police department.
“Every time Officer Baxter would come in, he’d have a smile from ear to ear,” Benoit said. “Just make all of us smile and joke around and just a great personality.”
Another memorial took shape at the scene of the shooting, the intersection of Palmway and Cypress Streets.
“It’s where the officers were taken, so it’s closer to them,” John Robson said. “It makes me feel closer to them.”
The Hope Mission Church will hold a community prayer vigil at 3 p.m. Sunday at the scene.
“Big loss. They were known here,” Ron Kolin said. “They did everything they could. They protected us.”
The city of Kissimmee set up an account for the officers’ families at SunTrust Bank. The account is titled, “City of Kissimmee - Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard.” People can make donations at any SunTrust Bank location starting Monday.