ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 9 (UPI) — The Orlando, Fla., Police Department said it is searching for a man suspected of fatally shooting one of its officers Monday morning outside a Walmart.
Sgt. Debra Clayton died after she was shot three times by a man wearing a security uniform outside the store, witnesses said.
“[The shooter] was an average looking dude, he walked by me, had a security vest and everything,” witness James Herman told WFTV-TV. “I was walking down the sidewalk, right past the officer, and I heard her tell him to stop, or whatever, and he shot her. He shot her down.”
Police chief John Mina announced “with a heavy heart” at a 10:45 a.m. news conference the 17-year veteran of department and mother of two, died at 7:40 a.m. She was carried out of Orlando Regional Medical Center in a flag-draped coffin and received a police escort.
Markeith Loyd, who authorities believe shot the officer, is also wanted in connection with the shooting death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.
An unidentified senior Orange County Sheriff’s Office motorcycle deputy also died in a crash while searching for Loyd.
Deputies were called to the scene of the initial shooting just after 7:15 a.m. after receiving word that an “officer needs help.”
An Orange County sheriff’s deputy later spotted the suspected gunman and followed him to a nearby apartment complex, officials said.
The man shot at the deputy but missed and hit his unmarked SUV twice, deputies said. Loyd allegedly carjacked a second vehicle and abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot.
Loyd, 41, has been wanted since the Dec. 13 shooting of 24-year-old Sade Dixon, who was killed outside her home. Dixon’s brother, Ronald Steward, also was critically injured when he tried to help her, investigators said.
Loyd served 10 years in prison in 2009 for conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine, according to federal court records. He was released from probation in 2014.
Mayor Buddy Dyer declared Monday an official day of mourning. The two law enforcement deaths occurred on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.