A man accused of shooting to death two Kissimmee police officers was well known at MacDill Air Force Base as a Marine who served key roles at two major commands.
Everette Glenn Miller, 45, is being held without bail after authorities say he killed Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard on Friday night following a scuffle that broke out as Baxter approached three people in a rough Kissimmee neighborhood. Deputies later arrested Miller at a bar.
His former commanding officer with U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill, informed by a reporter about the fatal shootings, said he was shocked.
"I would never imagine 'Top' doing anything like this," said retired Navy Capt. Tom Leech, who served as director of the SOCom Joint Intelligence Center from 2007 to 2010. Leech said Miller was often referred to at SOCom by the honorary title "Top," for the top sergeant.
A woman who worked with Miller at MacDill-based U.S. Central Command said she, too, was shocked by the news but could see something wasn't right about Miller through his recent posts on social media.
"We all noticed a sudden change in the content he was posting," said Michelle Whitt, who remained friends with Miller for about 16 years. "He was posting so many things that focused on racism or were filled with hate. So out of character. Several people reached out to him to find out what was going on."
Miller never responded, Whitt said.
Miller recently was involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office and had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, Kissimmee police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.
His Facebook page is now shut down, but Heavy.com had a look at it and reported that Miller went by the name Malik Mohammad Ali, decrying racism in America as well as President Donald Trump, Confederate monuments and Nazis.
On Aug. 15, a video of the unrest in Charlottesville, Va., was posted with the caption, "Confederate Nazis … i will hurt you all. You are the enemy. You can run but you cant hide," according to Heavy.
Miller joined the Marines on Oct. 23, 1989, and retired July 31, 2010, according to records provided by the service.
He deployed to Iraq at least twice, in 2005 and again in 2007, and earned six Good Conduct medals, two Marine Corps Commendation medals and several other honors.
According to Whitt, an Air Force veteran, Miller worked with her at CentCom as an imagery analyst. After retiring, Miller continued working as a contract employee with CentCom, according to Army Maj. Josh T. Jacques, a CentCom spokesman. Miller served as in that capacity as an intelligence specialist from May 2010 to April 2016.
"He was the only Marine in our shop, and he was so funny," said Whitt, 41, of Wilmington, N.C. "He was all about being a Marine and teased the rest of us for being in other branches of the service. He never used hate speech and was very much a patriot. He and his family were at my home on several occasions playing cards with other co-workers."
At SOCom, Miller, who rose to the rank of master sergeant, served as the senior enlisted adviser to the head of the Joint Intelligence Center, according to Ken McGraw, the command's spokesman.
It was a key position, said Leech, the former commander.
As senior enlisted adviser, Miller was "my right-hand man," keeping track of troops morale and welfare, ensuring that the troops had the equipment and training they needed, and serving as the conduit between them and leadership.
Like Whitt, Leech said Miller never exhibited any red flags during his time in uniform. The two last saw each other at a funeral in 2014, Leech said.
During a patrol late Friday in a Kissimmee neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Officer Baxter was checking out three people, including Miller, when the two men began to scuffle, Chief O'Dell said. Sgt. Howard responded as backup.
The officers, O'Dell said, didn't have an opportunity to return fire. Baxter died at the scene and Howard was pronounced dead the next day.
Miller was tracked to a bar Friday and Osceola County sheriff's deputies approached him, O'Dell said. He started reaching toward his waistband but deputies subdued him. They found he was carrying two handguns.
He was charged with first-degree murder, resisting arrest and carrying a concealed handgun.
Later that night, while being interviewed at Kissimmee police headquarters, Miller began to cry.
"(He) said he did not want to live and pleaded with me to kill him," Detective Cpl. Charles Hess wrote in an arrest report. Hess told him that nobody at the station was going to kill him and asked why he would say that.
"I have done a bad thing," Miller said.
Police said they have no current address for Miller. Records show he listed a home address in Orlando in November 2016, and in the years before that, in Riverview and Tampa.
Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer, and they have four children. Howard, 36, had served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife had one child.
Gov. Rick Scott has signed an executive order taking the case away from Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who in March said she would not seek the death penalty for anyone. Ocala-based State Attorney Brad King will now oversee Miller's prosecution.
Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.