Walmart employees who witnessed shooting testify in Markeith Loyd murder trial

Loyd accused of killing Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton in 2017

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Testimony began in convicted killer Markeith Loyd’s second murder trial Tuesday morning.

Opening statements began shortly after a panel of 12 jurors — nine men and three women — were sworn in Monday.

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Loyd is accused of shooting and killing Orlando police Lt. Clayton outside a Walmart in 2017 while he was on the run for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016. Loyd is currently serving life in prison sentence without parole for the murder of Dixon.

Clayton’s family, including her husband and son, were in court Tuesday, listening to the eyewitnesses and court proceedings.

Walmart employees who witnessed the shooting Jan. 9, 2017 and Orange County deputies, Orlando officers and a 911 dispatcher who responded to the incident made up the majority of testimonies heard in court today.

Multiple witnesses remembered hearing Clayton yell for Loyd to get on the ground followed shortly by multiple gunshots.

Jurors were also presented with the full surveillance video from the shooting incident.

Among the testimonies was the officer who performed CPR on Clayton and the deputy who chased Loyd to a Pine Hills apartment complex after the Walmart shooting incident.

The court session closed with the testimony of a witness to a carjacking that spurred Loyd’s escape.

The state officially ended their first day of witness testimony and will continue at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Below you can find our reporting of the entire first day of court proceedings:

The state called Orange County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brian Savelli, who has been a homicide detective with the sheriff’s office since January 2016 and with the agency for 10 years, to start off court. The state used him to show how a warrant is issued.

The following witness called to the stand is Takeshia Bryant, who said she knew Loyd from her cousin and was at the Walmart the morning of Clayton’s death. Bryant said she recognized Loyd at the Walmart and knew she had to go tell the police officer she saw in the store earlier, Clayton, about Loyd being in the store.

“I walked until I made it to the doors and ran when I made it past the door,” she testified. When asked by State Attorney Ryan Williams why she walked, she said “I didn’t want Mr. Loyd to know I recognized him.”

Bryant then said she saw Clayton tell Loyd to get on the ground and saw him push a basket and run. She testified that she saw Loyd with a gun but did not see Clayton with a gun when she heard more than one shot get fired. She said she got up from the ground and saw Loyd over Clayton.

When asked what she saw happen next, she responded, “One more shot.”

Loyd’s attorney Terence Lenamon then cross-examined her testimony.

Another witness, Julia Johnson, said she was an employee at Walmart when she saw the shooting.

“I froze and stood there ... They trained us were to go, but I froze. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Johnson testified she believed Clayton fired the first shot, saying “It was her to fire the first shot and Markeith Loyd fired the rest of the shots. The defense followed up and asked, “When Lt. Clayton said, ‘Get on the ground,’ she already had her firearm out?” Johnson then responded, “Yes, sir.”

Monica Pridgeon, the next witness, said she was also working at the Walmart the morning Clayton was killed. She recalled that other employees knew Clayton as a regular and would joke with Clayton.

“We would mess with her, said she was stealing,” Pridgeon said. Pridgeon testified that she saw Loyd fire the first shot because, “I was standing there watching him. Right behind the pillar.”

A 911 dispatcher working the morning Clayton was killed said, “Signal 43 is the worse possible signal. It’s rush, because the officer needs help.”

Pete Cadiz, a homicide detective with the Orlando police for 21 years, was one of the first to obtain and watch the surveillance video inside the Walmart the day of the incident.

The jurors were presented with this footage Tuesday in the courtroom, almost all of them taking notes.

While News 6 cannot see the video as the jurors watch, some of it can be found in our previous report here.

Cadiz also questioned Loyd the night he was arrested.

The state said during the questioning on Jan. 17, 2017, Cadiz grew angry with Loyd, calling him a string of vulgar names.

“It was something I didn’t anticipate, sitting in a room across the table and a friend of 20 years, gunned down on her back ... ” Cadiz said in the courtroom Tuesday. “I don’t want it to sound like an thoughts came out of my mouth and it shouldn’t of.”

Orlando Police Officer Branden Thorton also testified as one of the first officers on the scene.

Thorton performed CPR on Clayton, saying “she was trying to (speak).”

Capt. Joe Carter, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, testified to being shot at by Loyd twice after chasing and finding him at the Royal Oaks apartment complex following the Walmart shooting.

The state officially ended their first day of witness testimony and will continue Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Opening statements:

Prosecutors laid out their case of how Loyd allegedly killed Clayton outside of a Walmart in 2017 and started by showing surveillance footage recalling the events leading up to the shooting death of Clayton.

The defense then told the jury Loyd suffers from several mental illnesses, including PTSD and paranoia, and thought police were out to kill him. Loyd’s defense team said he had a history of experiencing racism and negative run-ins with police. He is using the insanity defense for his actions.

[RELATED: Lawyers present opening statements in Markeith Loyd’s trial]

Before the court was dismissed Monday, Loyd sounded off in the courtroom after lawyers on both sides gave their statements.

“The jury should know, even Ms. Clayton family should know that wasn’t told, because my state of mind coming from Sade’s thing, these people made up a story saying I came over here banging on these people’s doors and gunned these people down,” Loyd said.

During the outburst, Loyd also told Clayton’s family he tried to turn himself in twice.

The trial is expected to go on for several weeks.

About the Authors:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.