ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orange County Sheriff's Office deputy was struck and killed Monday morning during a search for a man who is accused of killing an Orlando police officer, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The deputy, identified around 5 p.m. Monday as Deputy First Class Norman Lewis, was on a motorcycle when a van hit him. Lewis, 35, was hired at the Orange County Sheriff's Office in 2005. He's a University of Central Florida alumnus and played football for the Knights, deputies said.
Troopers said the Honda van, driven by 78-year-old Billie Jarrard, of Clermont, was headed north on Pine Hills Road when the driver turned into the path of the motorcycle while trying to turn west onto Balboa Drive at 9:43 a.m. The front of Lewis' motorcycle hit the right side of the van, troopers said.
Lewis was thrown from his 2014 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, troopers said.
He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center in critical condition after the crash. Officials said he died shortly before 11 a.m.
"I have to say to ORMC, we appreciate their efforts, because I saw the sense of urgency and they gave everything they could to save the life of one of my deputy sheriffs, who unfortunately did not survive his injuries," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a press conference Monday morning.
Demings said Lewis had a green light and was not traveling at an "inordinate rate of speed."
Troopers said Jarrard was very remorseful and he thought he had enough time to avoid hitting the deputy when he turned.
The crash was reported during a massive manhunt for Markeith Loyd, who is accused of shooting and killing Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton Monday morning. Loyd is wanted in connection with the shooting death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in Pine Hills in December.
Demings said Lewis was working "in concert" with the effort to locate Loyd. Demings described Lewis as a "gentle giant" who was "very well known" and "very well liked."
"Sadly, I have to share with you this morning that in my 36-year career, this is probably one of the toughest days in my career," Demings said. "Not only did we lose an Orange police officer, we lost an Orange County deputy as well, who was traveling on his motorcycle as a result of these broad efforts that we have underway."
FHP Sgt. Kim Montes said she personally knew Lewis and was saddened by the news.
"This deputy is a phenomenal deputy. He is so lovable. A big giant, like the sheriff said. Everybody will agree to that," Montes said. "This deputy never, you never saw him when he wasn't smiling or laughing. He backed up everybody, he helped everybody. Everybody knows him."
Lewis graduated from UCF with his bachelor's degree in 2004 and was an offensive lineman for the Knights from 2000 to 2003, the school said. Clayton was also a UCF alumna. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in public administration in 1998 and a master's degree in criminal justice in 2002.
“Master Sgt. Clayton and Deputy First Class Lewis dedicated their lives to making our community safer, and they were outstanding role models,” UCF president John C. Hitt said. “Our UCF family joins the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office in mourning their deaths. They are heroes and Knights forever.”
Another motorcycle deputy was also hit by a vehicle and suffered minor injuries during the search for Loyd.
Troopers said Deputy Nelson Borjas, 46, was driving south in the center turn lane of Pine Hills Road with his lights and sirens on. Another officer in the area told 36-year-old Jerry Brown to make a U-turn.
When Brown went to turn, he didn't see Borjas and the left side of his Chevy Impala hit the front of Borjas' motorcycle. Brown was arrested and charged with driving on a suspended license, troopers said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer named Monday a day of mourning in the City of Orlando.
"As in the past, I'd like to call on our entire community to stand united in support of all of the families of both the deceased and the injured," Dyer said.
Dyer and other officials also asked anyone who has information that could lead to the arrest of Loyd to call 911 or Crimeline.
Jarrard, the driver of the van, was not injured. The crash is under investigation and charges are pending. Demings said it's unclear if Loyd will be charged in the deputy's death.
Read more about the search for Loyd and watch live video of the response across Central Florida here.