One police officer was killed and three wounded in nighttime shootings in two Florida cities where the officers were responding to suspected drug activity and reports of a suicide attempt, police said Saturday.
One officer was killed and another gravely injured late Friday night in Kissimmee in central Florida just south of the theme park hub of Orlando. The other two officers were injured a couple of hours later in Jacksonville, one of them shot in both hands and the other in the stomach. Three of four suspects in the Kissimmee shooting were arrested, and the shooter in Jacksonville was shot and killed when police returned fire.
In Kissimmee, officers Sam Howard and Matthew Baxter were checking suspects in an area of the city for drug activity when they were shot, Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell said at a news conference. They did not have an opportunity to return fire.
“They were surprised,” O’Dell said. When asked whether they were ambushed, he said, “It’s too early to tell, but it’s leading that way.”
Baxter, a three-year veteran of the department, died later in a hospital and Howard, a 10-year veteran, was in serious condition, O’Dell said. Both had families, he said.
The officers were checking three of the suspects when a fourth opened fire. One of the original three suspects fled and was being sought, and the other three were arrested. Broadcaster WFTV showed aerial footage of police cars with lights flashing swarmed a housing complex as the search continued early Saturday morning.
In the northern Florida city of Jacksonville, police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where three other people were thought to be in danger, Sheriff’s Office Director Mike Bruno said.
A team of officers heard gunshots inside and feared “an active shooter situation” so they approached the house, Bruno said. The suspect then came out firing a high-powered rifle. He was shot and killed, and two of the police officers were wounded in the exchange of fire. The three other people in the house were safe, Bruno said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent Tweets about the four officers, saying “we stand with ALL law enforcement in Florida.”
When O’Dell held his brief news conference outside the hospital where the two fallen Kissimmee officers had been taken, reports already had surfaced of two more officers shot in Jacksonville to the north.
“It’s a tough time for law enforcement,” O’Dell said of those reports. “It’s getting tough to do the job.”