Two officers were killed and two others were injured in two separate Florida shootings that took place Friday night, outbreaks of violence against police that reverberated across the nation.
The first shooting happened in Kissimmee, Fla., just south of Orlando. Officers were responding to a report of suspicious activity in a high-crime area when they were taken by surprise, officials said.
The second shooting, about 90 minutes later in Jacksonville, left two officers injured. Police were dispatched to deal with an armed suicidal man when he came out firing.
All the shootings were “deflating to law enforcement and heartbreaking,” Kissimmee Chief Jeff O’Dell told reporters, shortly after he announced that Officer Matthew Baxter had died of his injuries. Sgt. Sam Howard died Saturday, police announced on Facebook Saturday afternoon.
About 9:30 p.m. Friday, Baxter and Howard were on patrol in a neighborhood in the north part of the city where police were trying to crack down on heightened drug activity.
The officers were searching several suspects when they got into a scuffle with one, who opened fire, O’Dell said at the news conference.
The officers didn’t have time to return fire, O’Dell said. “It looked like they were surprised by the gunfire.”
Police began searching for the shooter and announced Saturday morning that they’d arrested Everett Miller, who is charged with murder.
As investigators learned more about Miller, O’Dell said he was disheartened to learn that the suspect had posted violent anti-police comments on social media and that no one had reported it to authorities. O’Dell didn’t detail the comments.
Nearly two hours later and 165 miles north, police officers in Jacksonville were summoned to a home on the city’s west side to defuse a situation involving a suicidal man armed with a gun, according to the Florida Times-Union. There was an extra element of danger: Dispatchers told the officers three other people were inside the home with the armed man.
As a team of officers approached the house, they heard gunshots and feared they were dealing with an active shooter.
The suspect came out firing a high-powered rifle, police said. He was killed during the ensuing firefight with officers and had not been identified early Saturday.
Two officers were wounded, though their injuries are not life-threatening. The three other people in the house were unhurt.
And around 8 p.m. Friday, two Pennsylvania State troopers were shot southeast of Pittsburgh after stopping a man who had an outstanding warrant, according to Philadelphia ABC-affiliate WPVI. One trooper managed to return fire, killing the suspect.
As the police agencies sorted through the aftermath of the attacks, President Trump tweeted a show of solidarity.
And Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said he was praying for the Kissimmee Police Department, which had lost a “brave officer.”
So far this year, 81 officers have died in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Baxter was added to the list on Saturday, but Howard had not been by the time of this report.