A month shy of the sixth anniversary of one the worst nights in the Kissimmee City’s history, the deaths of Sergeant Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter, who died in the line of duty,  Kissimmee Police Department Lieutenant Omar Berrio, the recipient of a scholarship created to honor the memory of the fallen officers, recently received his Criminal Justice bachelor’s degree from Florida Technical College.

After a 25-year law enforcement career, the now Kissimmee Police Department Lieutenant Omar Berrio had the opportunity to walk across the Amway Center stage to receive his Criminal Justice bachelor’s degree from Florida Technical College.

Lt. Berrio was awarded the Sergeant Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter Memorial Scholarship in February 2018, a scholarship created to honor Sergeant Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter, two Kissimmee Police Department officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2017 while out patrolling.

“Having the opportunity to honor them and that was the most important thing to me,” Berrio said. “Having known them personally, and professionally, gave me the opportunity to honor their legacy.”

His desire to do his best was exemplified by results achieved, Omar Berrio graduated Summa Cum Laude with 3.95 GPA.

Berrio also credits his professors at Florida Technical College with helping him navigate the higher education process to reach his educational goals.  

Attending Florida Technical College helped Berrio get promoted to lieutenant. One of the requirements for the lieutenant position is to have an associate degree or 60 college credits, which Berrio was able to complete in 2021.

“Since receiving the scholarship Omar Berrio has been promoted to Lieutenant and continued to protect and serve the citizens of Kissimmee with the highest level of integrity,” stated Dr. James Michael Burkett, Florida Technical College President. “It is without question that he has honored the memories of Sergeant Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter.”

The scholarship covered all costs associated with the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Lt. Berrio completed his Criminal Justice degree in 2021, but due to Covid-19 restrictions couldn’t walk across the stage until July 7th, 2023, one month shy of the sixth anniversary of the tragedy.

This is Florida Technical College’s first commencement ceremony since the pandemic.  Mayor Jerry Demings headlined as the commencement speaker of the graduation, along with Congressman Darren Soto and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez who provided a special congratulatory video message.  The graduation attendees included Kissimmee Police department Chief Betty Holland, Kissimmee Vice Mayor Olga Castano, Tanisha Nunn-Gary, President of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, Gaby Ortigoni, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and Katia Medina, VP of Prospera.