ORLANDO, Fla. – The man accused of shooting and killing Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton claims he was “in fear for his life and ready to fight fire with fire” while being sought by authorities for a previous murder, according to a letter he recently sent to News 6.
Markeith Loyd does not explicitly confess to killing Clayton in the six-page letter mailed from the Orange County Jail, where he is being held while awaiting trial.
But Loyd never denies shooting the police officer and offers possible justifications for his actions in the letter, potentially providing a glimpse into Loyd’s courtroom defense strategy.
“This never had to happen, but the investigator and police had a hidden agenda, and that blowed up in they face and now they want to place blame on me cause I was fighting for my life from a system that was hell bent on killing me,” Loyd wrote.
Last year, a jury convicted Loyd of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and their unborn child during a shooting outside Dixon’s home in December 2016. Dixon’s brother, Ronald Steward, was injured in the altercation.
Loyd is currently serving a life prison sentence for that crime.
While on the run from authorities after killing Dixon, investigators said Loyd gunned down the police officer in the parking lot of an Orlando Walmart.
If a jury convicts Loyd of murdering Clayton, prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.
“This evil [expletive] system created the Walmart incident with Clayton,” Loyd wrote in his letter to News 6. “I never wanted that to happen, as I didn’t want the incident to happen with Sade, my child and Ron.”
[WARNING: The letter below contains graphic language]
Following Dixon’s death, Loyd claims police and the media portrayed him as a “monster” and “mad man” while spreading what he described as “lies” about the shooting, which Loyd unsuccessfully tried to convince jurors was done in self-defense.
“I knew I was being set up to be killed,” Loyd wrote.
While Loyd was shopping at Walmart in January 2017, investigators said a customer recognized him as being the wanted man and alerted Clayton, who was also in the store while dressed in her Orlando Police Department uniform.
Walmart security camera footage, which has never been released publicly, reportedly showed what happened next.
According to investigators, Clayton can be seen running after Loyd in the parking lot.
Loyd then loops back and pulls a handgun from his waist, according to investigators.
Authorities said the video captured Loyd firing three shots at the police officer, striking her once in the hip and causing her to fall.
“The suspect advances towards her with his right arm outstretched and repeatedly firing his gun at [then-]Sgt. Clayton while she is on her back,” an arrest affidavit stated.
After Clayton fired her weapon seven times, investigators said Loyd stood over her and shot at her several more times.
One of the bullets fatally struck Clayton in the neck, the medical examiner concluded.
Loyd then drove away from the Walmart, investigators said.
In his letter to News 6, Loyd claimed police were trying to hunt him down and kill him.
“Never been a rabbit and always been a lion,” Loyd wrote. “I meet peace with peace and violence with violence.”
Loyd disputed allegations that he ambushed Clayton outside the store.
“If anyone was ambushed, it was me coming out of Walmart,” he wrote.
Loyd’s attorney, Terence Lenamon, stated in a recent court filing that the Orlando Police Department failed to investigate Clayton’s actions.
“They did not attempt to determine whether she fired her firearm first at the defendant or whether the defendant was responding to her action when he initially fired his weapon,” Lenamon wrote in a motion.
The defense attorney then raised the possibility that the police officer may have broken the law before she was killed.
“(The) Orlando Police Department completely ignored a possible strike mark and a projectile recovered at the scene, evidence which would support the theory that Clayton fired first before the defendant drew his weapon, possibly in violation of OPD policy and Florida law,” Lenamon wrote in the court filing.
In a bold accusation, Loyd’s letter to News 6 alleges that police “doctored” a portion of the Walmart security video.
Loyd claims a copy of the video law enforcement shared with his attorney “[leaves] out the image where I’m running with my back turned to Clayton as she has her gun arm extended pointed at my back”.
Loyd’s attorney filed a motion in April demanding that a defense expert be allowed to examine the original security video due to alleged discrepancies involving the number of frames per second that were captured by the cameras.
Prosecutors deny that the surveillance video was altered.
“We are aware of no evidence that has been tampered with or changed,” said Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway. “The defense has an ‘expert’ who will testify about some ‘variance in the frame rate’ of the Walmart video. Apparently, if that does exist, it is a result of the equipment used to record the video, not due to tampering.”
Lenamon did not respond to specific questions emailed to him by News 6 inquiring whether he agreed with Loyd’s characterization that the video was “doctored.”
“As I always maintain, the story of the events leading up to and after the shooting of Debra Clayton will be told in the courtroom; either during pretrial litigation or during the trial,” Lenamon replied in an email.
The police officer’s widower said he assumed Loyd would attempt to portray himself as a victim during his trial for Clayton’s murder, just as he did when he was on trial for killing his ex-girlfriend.
“I’m not surprised by this,” Seth Clayton told News 6 when informed about Loyd’s correspondence.
In his letter, Loyd claims Orlando police “tortured me and took my eye” when he was taken into custody for Clayton’s murder.
Although Loyd lost the use of his eye due to blows he received from officers while being arrested outside an abandoned house, an outside state attorney who reviewed the officers’ actions concluded their use of force was justified.
“If black lives matter, where they at?” Loyd wrote as he concluded his letter to News 6. “‘Cause it don’t get no blacker (than) me. I’m the side that survived. I guess that don’t count.”