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Markeith Loyd sentenced to death for 2017 murder of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton

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Two Florida cops killed
Two Florida officers killed in manhunt for murder suspect 02:45

A judge on Thursday sentenced a Florida man to death for fatally shooting an Orlando police officer while he was on the run for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Jurors in November found Markeith Loyd, 46, guilty in the January 2017 death of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, and unanimously recommended a death sentence during a hearing in December. Circuit Judge Leticia Marques announced her decision during a brief hearing on Thursday morning.

Loyd is already serving a life sentence for killing Sade Dixon, his former girlfriend, a month before Clayton was killed.

Loyd was on the run for killing Dixon when a shopper at a Walmart spotted him on January 9, 2017. Prosecutors said the shopper notified Clayton, who was also at the store, and she attempted to stop him. Clayton, 42, was killed during a shootout with Loyd outside the store. An autopsy showed that Clayton was struck four times and the fatal shot hit her neck, apparently as she lay on her back on the ground.

County Deputy Norman Lewis was also fatally struck by a vehicle during the 9-day manhunt for Loyd.

Sheriff John Mina, who was in the courtroom Thursday, praised the judge's sentence.  

"Very pleased that Judge Marques sentenced cop killer Loyd to death," Mina wrote on Twitter. "He has caused so much suffering to the families of Lt. Debra Clayton, Sade Dixon, and DFC Norm Lewis."

When Loyd was arrested in 2017, Mina, who was then the Orlando police chief, said Loyd initially tried to escape out the back of the house through a sliding glass door, but came out through the front door and dropped the firearms on the ground. One of the guns had a 100-round capacity, Mina said. At the time, Mina said that police used Lt. Clayton's handcuffs to arrest Loyd.

"Although nothing can undo the heartache created by the defendant's heinous actions, we hope that this brings solace to our community, knowing a dangerous murderer will face the highest penalty provided by the law," Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolón said in a statement.

During the trial, prosecutors said the fatal shot was fired as Loyd stood over Clayton in the parking lot. She was shot four times.

She was a sergeant at the time of the shooting, but was promoted posthumously.

During multiple hearings since the shooting, Loyd claimed he fired at Clayton in self-defense. His attorneys said he was insane at the time after becoming convinced the police were trying to kill him.

His mental health has been a key issue since his arrest, with the judge finally ruling last week that he was competent to continue with the sentencing hearing.

Clinical psychologist Xavier Amador testified that Loyd suffers from the delusional belief he is a "slave" whom his "slave masters" - the judge and prosecutors - are intent on killing, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Another psychiatrist, Jeffrey Danziger, testified that Loyd can't effectively work with his defense team.

Loyd also claimed he was acting in self-defense when he shot Dixon and her brother, who was injured, a month before Clayton was killed.

The defense team also said Loyd suffered brain damage when officers beat and kicked him in the face as he crawled from under a home where he'd been hiding during a massive weeklong manhunt after Clayton was killed. Loyd lost his eye in the beating and the officers were later cleared of any wrongdoing.

Quincy Morris, a cousin of Clayton, told WKMG that the outcome is what God "wanted it to be."

"Now she can rest in peace," Morris added.

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