Dozens of law enforcement officers came to serenade the daughter of a fallen cop on her 17th birthday – which came two days after he was gunned down in the line of duty.
Unique Howard broke down in tears as the officers and civilians sang “Happy Birthday” in a surprise gathering this week at the Publix grocery store where she works in St. Cloud, Fla.
Unique insisted on going to work, even though her family had removed her dad from life support just 48 hours before. Kissimmee Police Department Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard died Saturday.
Lt. James Napier gave the teen a memorial coin and a “thin blue line” bracelet to symbolize her membership in the family of cops.
“From now and forever, you don’t stand alone. You don’t suffer alone. You’re never alone because all of these people are here for you, and we’re here to protect you,” he said.
Sam Howard, 36, and Officer Matthew Baxter, 27, were shot last Friday during a routine traffic stop, police said. Baxter died that night.
Marine veteran Everett Miller, 45, has been charged in the killings and is being held at the Osceola County Jail.
His family said he suffered from PTSD and had been in a “downward spiral,” according to local reports.
A joint funeral for the slain officers was held Thursday. More than 5,000 people attended, with hundreds lining the walls and walkways of a local church.
Howard is survived by his wife, Billie Jo, and Unique. Baxter is survived by his wife, Sadia, and four daughters, Sariah, Isabella, Zarah and Sofia.
As an honor guard escorted the caskets, a dispatcher’s voice carried over loudspeakers: “Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Mathew Baxter are out of service on this date, Aug. 24, of 2017. Rest easy, gentlemen. We have the watch from here.”