ORLANDO, Fla. — Law enforcement officers in Orlando were engaged in a massive manhunt early Tuesday for a man accused of fatally shooting a police officer who approached him outside a Walmart.
The manhunt itself has led to the death of a sheriff’s deputy in a traffic accident and the injury of another officer.
Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, 42, was killed outside the Wal-Mart store in northwest Orlando early Monday, and Orange County Sheriff’s Office Deputy 1st Class Norman Lewis was killed more than two hours later in a crash while responding to a manhunt for Markeith Loyd, 41.
Another Orlando police officer was involved in a crash while responding to the shooting but had only minor injuries.
The deaths left Orlando’s law enforcement community in mourning. Clayton’s patrol SUV was displayed in front of Orlando Police headquarters Tuesday morning. The police department also started an online fund to raise money for her family.
Authorities said Loyd previously was a suspect in the killing of his pregnant ex-girlfriend in December. A massive manhunt involving hundreds of officers was conducted all day Monday as they searched for Loyd in dozens of homes, displacing some residents of a northwest Orlando apartment complex and tying up traffic.
“He should be considered armed and dangerous,” Police Chief John Mina said. Later in the day, the chief said, “It doesn’t matter where he is. We will track him down to the ends of the Earth.”
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said deputies had been searching unsuccessfully for Loyd for several weeks since the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend and believe he was receiving help from someone.
Mina lauded Clayton, a 17-year veteran of the force, as a committed officer and a hero who gave her life to the community she loves. The Orlando Police Department said in a tweet that Clayton always had a smile and a high five for every child she came across.
Clayton had grown up in the Orlando area and was active in mentoring programs for young people.
“She was always the first to step up and help kids,” Mina said.
Clayton was a supervisor for a patrol division in the neighborhood where she was shot, and she previously had worked in investigations and as a school resource officer, Deputy Chief Orlando Rolon said.
“She made a point, even outside her working hours, to do things for youth and do things for the community,” Rolon said.
She was married and had a college-age son.
Police released a video of Clayton’s body being taken out of the hospital to a waiting van in a flag-covered stretcher. A line of officers saluted as the stretcher was wheeled out.
The apartment complex that was the focus of the manhunt and shooting in northwest Orlando was nowhere near Orlando’s tourism corridor in the southern part of the metro area.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared a day of mourning in the city.
While at the Walmart on Monday morning, Clayton was tipped off by someone that Loyd was in the area. When she approached him, he fired multiple shots at Clayton, who was wearing body armor, Mina said.
Clayton returned fire but didn’t hit him, he said.
Sheriff’s officials said a deputy spotted Loyd fleeing in a vehicle. The suspect pulled into a nearby apartment complex and then fired at a deputy, striking the deputy’s SUV twice. The deputy wasn’t harmed, the sheriff’s office said.
Loyd then carjacked another vehicle, drove away and then abandoned the vehicle not far away, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputy was killed more than two hours after the shooting when a van collided with his motorcycle as he responded to the manhunt. Demings described the 35-year-old Lewis as “a gentle giant,” and the sheriff’s office said he had played football for the University of Central Florida before joining the agency 11 years ago.