Slain Orlando officer praised by teens she mentored

Sgt. Debra Clayton worked with dozens of teens in Dueling Dragons boat program

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fallen Orlando police officer Master Sgt. Debra Clayton worked with several youth programs, including the Dueling Dragons boat program, which targets inner-city teens.

"She was a kind person," 15-year-old Chris Durant told News 6 on Tuesday at the Rosemont Community Center. "She was sweet."

Several teens in the program were brought to the community center to speak about their experience with Sgt. Clayton serving as a mentor.

"She was always a joyful person," said Chris' younger sister, Nicole Durant.

Chris added, "Any time you asked her for something, she would do her best to do it."

"She always helped children out if they were struggling," Nicole said.

The Durant siblings had been 11 and 13 years old when they first met the Orlando Police Department veteran. They said Clayton's affection was contagious from the moment she walked into their lives.

"The first time I saw her, she had a smile on her face," Chris Durant said.

"She always had a big smile on her face," his sister agreed. "It was never a frown."

The Durants are two of dozens of inner-city Orlando teens Clayton mentored in Dueling Dragons, a competitive boat-rowing program matching kids and cops. Together, they train as a team -- police and community as one.

"One time we were at an event in The Villages and she came in with her uniform on," Chris recalled. "She'd just came in from work, so you knew that she had the attitude to help kids, to do the best she could to mentor people and she was very involved in our lives."

The Durants said while Clayton may have lost her life on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the respect she built with the teens will not be forgotten.

"You were very helpful to me when I needed you," Nicole said. "(You) always helped children out if they needed help."

"She helped me personally just by respecting people more and just by putting a smile on my face even when I don't want to," said Chris, who added that if he could see Clayton one more time, he would give her a big hug and thank her for all the good work she did.

About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.