‘It’s a gun battle:’ Markeith Loyd claims self-defense in fatal shooting of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton

Loyd currently serving life sentence for killing pregnant ex-girlfriend

Markeith Loyd takes the stand in his own trial

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Markeith Loyd, the man accused of shooting and killing Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton in 2017, testified Saturday morning, claiming self-defense for the shooting outside the Walmart that killed Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.

Loyd is accused of fatally shooting Clayton while on the run after killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December 2016. He is currently serving life in prison sentence without parole for the murder of Dixon.

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The defense began by going over his childhood growing up without a father, asking Loyd about watching movies about racism and he responded that he has seen these movies since he was 7 years old.

“They wanted to put fear in you to show you if you don’t stay in your place, this is what we’re going to do to you,” Loyd said.

Loyd said he began selling drugs when he was 16. He said it started around Christmas when his mother did not get him any gifts and his grandmother gave him $100, which he used to buy drugs and began selling.

Lead attorney Terry Lenamon, who represents Loyd, questioned him and asked if he believes he is crazy or mentally ill to which Loyd responded, “No.” Lenamon asked him about the events of December 2016 when he fatally shot Dixon, his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Loyd said he felt like police were trying to kill him before Dixon’s murder and called his family after the shooting to tell them it did not happen the way it was being reported on the news. He said after the shooting of Dixon, he lived in woods and abandoned houses while on the run. Lenamon asked him why he didn’t leave.

“If I run, I’m guilty and I’m not running,” he said.

Loyd said he heard from a friend who told him police said he was going to go out by suicide by cop. He said he tried to turn himself in twice before the fatal shooting of Clayton at the Walmart, but he said he believed police were trying to kill him.

Loyd then went over what happened leading up to the shooting and death of Clayton, saying he went to pay and saw her. He said as he was leaving, “I got my head down, I got the beanie down here like almost my eyes, trying to cover myself.” He said as he pushed the doors to leave the Walmart, “I see a gun in my face ... I thought I was fixing to get shot.”

He said he wasn’t 100% sure it was a gun belonging to police and he ran off, hearing a shot as he was leaving the store.

“When I hear a shot, I immediately pulled my gun and turned around and return fire,” Loyd said.

Loyd said he stopped shooting when she stopped shooting and went toward her to try to shoot her in her vest. He said the whole shootout lasted 13 seconds. The defense asked if Loyd believed he had to return fire to defend his life and he responded, “Yes.”

When he drove off after the Walmart shooting, Loyd said he saw an unmarked police car and pulled over because he didn’t want to do a high-speed chase. He said he fired a warning shot at the officer and out of nowhere, a car pulled up.

“And I knew God sent me this car,” he said.

From there, Loyd said he drove off and a voice was leading him which way to go. He said he changed his clothes, got on a city bus — that he said God sent — and took three buses to a wooded area in Apopka then went to Volusia County. Loyd said he returned to a home in Orlando because God told him to “come back for a reason.” He said he planned to turn himself in and heard police were nearby.

Loyd said he opened the door, threw out a first gun before shutting the door and reopening it to throw out a second gun. He said he opened the door once again and “I came out crawling on the ground, just in case they start firing at me I wouldn’t be a big target for them.”

Lead prosecutor Ryan Williams began cross-examining Loyd, asking if he says he does not have a mental illness and if he is aware the defense hired an expert to testify that he does have a mental illness. Loyd responded that what the defense is going to say is he was insane at the time of the shooting.

Williams questioned Loyd about the two guns he carried after the second robbery, pointing out he is not allowed to carry firearms as a convicted felon.

The state went over the events leading up to the shooting of Dixon. Loyd said after Dixon’s brother attacked him, he believed Dixon got her gun back from Loyd and he shot her “a bunch of times.” He told Williams he believed he saw her with a gun when asked whether or not he saw a gun.

Williams asked Loyd why he did not go to police right away if he killed Dixon in self-defense. He responded he was getting his thoughts together and saw the news reporting a false story.

At the Walmart where Clayton was shot, Williams asked Loyd why he ran and if it was because he did not want to be taken into custody.

“No, negative,” Loyd said. He said he tried to turn himself in two times.

Loyd was asked whether Clayton was running away from him or not to which he responded she was still shooting. Williams asked Loyd if he knew Clayton was a police officer and he said that “doesn’t give you a right to kill me.” Loyd said Clayton was still alive when he left the Walmart.

Following Loyd’s testimony, the defense called Dr. Jethro Toomer, who works in private practice in clinical and forensic psychology, next to the stand. Toomer said he spent six hours evaluating Loyd to give an opinion whether he met criteria for sanity versus insanity at the time of the shooting of Clayton.

Toomer said when he spoke with Loyd about the Clayton shooting, he said, “All of his actions and description of those appears to be fueled by a belief that he was going to be killed, that he was in fear for his life.”

The psychologist said he diagnosed Loyd with several mental disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD and psychosis. He concluded Loyd knew what he was doing but didn’t know it was wrong, saying he was “insane at the time of the shooting of Lt. Clayton.”

The state rested its case Thursday, three days after opening statements following the seating of the jury, which is comprised of nine men and three women. The defense began presenting its case Friday, with Loyd’s brother and sister being called to the stand to speak on his history of mental illness and paranoia of police.

Clayton’s family, including her husband and son, have been in court for the proceedings.

You can watch the murder trial live in the video player at the top of this story and follow coverage from News 6 reporter Amanda Castro below.


About the Authors:

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

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!