ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, shot and killed Monday while attempting to arrest a wanted homicide suspect, marks the second U.S. officer killed in the line of duty this year and the first for the Orlando Police Department in almost 10 years.
Before Monday, an Orlando police officer had not been killed since 2007.
Clayton, 42, said over radio at 7:17 a.m. that she was going to make contact with Markeith Loyd, 41, wanted for murder, at the Walmart on North John Young parkway and Princeton Street, according to Orlando police.
Two minutes later, police say Clayton’s fellow officers reported that she had been shot.
Clayton was wearing body armor and able to return fire at Loyd, but police said he was not hit or injured.
Clayton was shot multiple times by Loyd, wanted in connection with the slaying of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, according to Orlando police.
Orlando police Chief John Mina called Clayton, a 17-year veteran, a hero who was dedicated to serving her community. She was a Central Florida native, married with one son, who is in college, Mina said.
Clayton was pronounced dead at Orlando Regional Medical Center Monday at 7:40 a.m., police said.
The University of Central Florida said Clayton graduated from the school in 1998 with her bachelor's degree in public administration and earned her master's degree in criminal justice in 2002.
Also on Monday, an Orange County deputy was hit and killed by a car while he was responding to the manhunt, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.
Demings described the fallen deputy as a "gentle giant." The deputy has not been identified.
Officials called both deaths tragic as Monday, Jan. 9 is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
"To lose two law enforcement officers ... on this law enforcement appreciation day ... is indeed tragic," Demings said.
Loyd also shot at an Orange County Sheriff's deputy, according to police, after stealing a vehicle and fleeing the scene. The deputy was unharmed.
The last time an Orlando-area law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty was in 2014, when Orange County Deputy sheriff Jonathan Scott Pine was shot and killed pursuing a burglary suspect.
Since 1876, 15 Orlando police officers, including Clayton, have been killed.
In the last 10 years, 37 Florida law enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire, according to the Officer Down Memorial page.
One-hundred forty officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States last year, five from Florida agencies, according to the Officer Down Memorial website. Sixty-five were killed by gunfire.
Texas had the most officers killed in the line of duty in 2016 at 19. Five Texas officers were killed by a sniper, who targeted law enforcement in downtown Dallas on July 8.
Demings said he knew Clayton well and hired her in 1999 while he was Orlando police chief. The now Orange County Sheriff said Monday was "probably one of the toughest days" of his career.
“She always had a smile, high-five for every kid she came across,” Orlando police tweeted along with Clayton's photo Monday.
Mina said while its tragic to lose an officer, it hurts all the more because Clayton was "trying to do her part to make this community safer."
Clayton was also one of the hundreds of law enforcement officers who responded to the Pulse shooting on June 12, according to Orlando Police Department records.
The Central Florida Urban League honored Clayton in June for her work with the Dueling Dragons, a boat team that pairs at-risk teens with officers.
“Master Sgt. Clayton always had the time to give back to her community, whether it was by mentoring at-risk youth or serving on our law enforcement task force,” the Central Florida Urban League said on Facebook. “She worked tirelessly alongside the CFUL in bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community. She is and will always be a hero.”
Clayton regularly stopped by and volunteered time with Parramore Zidz Zone, a program aimed at reducing juvenile crime in Orlando’s highest poverty neighborhood.
Orange County commissioner Regina Hill said Clayton served as her police liaison. Clayton came to Hill soon after she was elected and asked how she could help build trust between county officials, community and police, Hill told News 6.
Hill said she is "grief stricken" over Clayton's death. She went to Clayton's wedding in Jamaica less than one year ago.
"This one hurts,” Hill, who also recently lost her daughter, said. “Debra was trying to serve, doing a beautiful job, she was a beautiful person.”
Clayton would have given “you the shirt off her back,” Hill said.
The veteran officer worked to combat violence in Orlando, Mina said during a news conference, organizing several marches against violence.
"Debra Clayton is a hero and she gave her life protecting the community that she loves," Mina said. " She will be deeply missed."
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared Monday a day of mourning in Orlando.
A public viewing for Clayton will be held on Jan. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. at First Baptist of Orlando, her funeral will be on Jan. 14 at 2 p.m. also at the First Baptist of Orlando. More details on Clayton's funeral arrangements can be found here.
Orlando police set up a Gofundme page to help Clayton's family and grief counseling will be offered for OPD officers. In 15 hours, donations exceeded the $10,000 goal and the page has received more than $13,500 in donations.