'Their hearts were bigger than their badges': Fallen heroes Clayton, Lewis honored
Commemorative events held one year after deaths
ORLANDO, Fla. – In honor of two fallen heroes who died one year ago Tuesday, the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office hosted a series of commemorative events.
On Jan. 9, 2017, Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton was fatally shot outside a Walmart on John Young Parkway while attempting to arrest accused murderer Markeith Loyd, officials said. Loyd fled after the fatal shooting, prompting a massive manhunt across Central Florida.
Orange County Deputy First Class Norman Lewis died hours later after he was fatally struck on his motorcycle while aiding in the search for Loyd, according to authorities.
Central Florida authorities used Clayton's handcuffs to arrest Loyd on Jan. 17, 2017, bringing the search to an end.
The first event on Tuesday began at 9:30 a.m. at the University of Central Florida Wayne Densch Center for Student Athlete Leadership, where Norma Lewis presented a photo of her son to the school's athletic department.
Norman Lewis was a UCF alumnus who played as an offensive lineman for the university's football team from 2000 to 2003. Clayton graduated from the school in 2002.
Norma Lewis cheered and threw her arms in the air as she imitated how her son would have reacted had he seen UCF's recent win the Peach Bowl. She wore a football jersey with his name embroidered across the back and stacked his class rings on her fingers.
"Not only did he play the football, but also a motorman and escort the team in -- oh, he was so happy, we was so proud," Norma Lewis said.
After that 30-minute ceremony, there was a motorcycle ride in honor of Lewis and Clayton that began at Wayne Densch Center for Student Athlete Leadership, then went past the Orlando Police Department headquarters and the two sites where Clayton and Norman Lewis lost their lives before ending at ICP Orlando church on Clarcona Ocoee Road.
Motorists should expect rolling closures in those areas.
The motorcade arrived at the church by 10:45 a.m., and a service for the two will began shortly after 11 a.m.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings both spoke at the ceremony, speaking of their admiration for the fallen officers.
“These two individuals embodied the type of law enforcement officer that we all could be proud of," Demings said. "Their hearts were bigger than their badges.”
Both Demings and Mina touted Clayton and Lewis for their dedication, passion and commitment to making Central Florida a safer place.
[Watch below: Trooper Steve recalls talking to Deputy Lewis minutes before his death]
“Although very somber, we take time to celebrate the lives of Debra and Norm because they were such wonderful, wonderful people. Very committed, extremely committed to their community. In fact, both of them, in the last moments of their lives, the last actions they took were to protect this community that they loved so much," Mina said.
They both also noted that the somber anniversary comes on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
“Little did we know, one year ago the tragic events that were about to unfold in our community. Certainly, it’s a day that the families will never forget, and I know that those of you here in this audience will never forget that day as well,” Demings said.
The ceremony ended with a prayer, and then the dozens of law enforcement officers in attendance were treated to a catered lunch from the Chick-fil-A that Norm Lewis frequented.
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