Marine veteran had PTSD, fixated on police shooting before killing cops, witnesses say
By MONIVETTE CORDEIRO | Orlando Sentinel | Published: November 6, 2019
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Hours before Everett Glenn Miller was hospitalized for running in the streets with a high-powered rifle wearing only boxers, he was collecting weapons and telling his family “people were coming to get him,” his cousin told jurors.
Devona Barnes testified Wednesday that Miller had a happy childhood and a successful military career. But after the Marine Corps veteran retired from his job targeting insurgents and terrorists with drone strikes, Miller was depressed and expressed remorse about having killed innocent bystanders.
“It was taking a toll on him,” Barnes said. “He seemed to be having some issues and going in a downward spiral.”
The testimony about Miller’s mental health came as the jury in his murder trial considers whether the Marine veteran should be sentenced to death or life in prison. Miller, 48, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2017 slayings of Sgt. Richard “Sam” Howard, 36, and Officer Matthew Baxter, 26.
About a month before Miller killed Howard and Baxter, Barnes got a call from someone who said her cousin was wearing only underwear and acting strange, she testified Wednesday. After she picked him up and brought him to her house, Miller shut the blinds and crawled around the home collecting knives, scissors, a pitchfork and an ice pick.
“He kept saying the people were coming to get us,” she said. “There was nobody coming.”
Miller was taken to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and involuntarily committed under Florida’s Baker Act. At the hospital, he was diagnosed as having a bipolar disorder with psychotic features and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to psychologist Steven Gold.
Miller can only be sent to death row if the 12-member jury recommends it unanimously. Prosecutors argued Tuesday Miller was motivated by his hatred for law enforcement, and the killings were done in a “cold, calculated and premeditated manner” deserving of execution.
But Miller’s attorneys have argued the shooting wasn’t premeditated. Gold, who testified for Miller’s defense, said the convicted killer met the criteria for PTSD, and an event likely triggered his disorder the night he shot Baxter and Howard.
Baxter was conducting a routine check on three people the night of Aug. 18, 2017, when a witness said Miller suddenly drove up and started arguing with him for “messing with his people.” Miller’s family and friends testified he was fixated on high-profile killings of African Americans by police.
Baxter called Howard to the scene. After an argument, Miller ambushed the two cops, shooting each of them in the head and face, prosecutors said.
Miller was later arrested at a bar on Orange Blossom Trail.
Gold said Miller told him he does not remember shooting the officers but does have memories of the events before and after. “Certain people may have PTSD with disassociation, like not being able to remember certain events, especially emotionally charged ones,” he told jurors.
Gold testified Miller had an exceptional military career but struggled to adjust to civilian life.
“He was involved in defending this country ... and he sees people who look like him being shot and killed, apparently unarmed," Gold said. "I think that would have certainly contributed to his confusion.”
Testimony will resume Thursday morning.