Chief describes slain Orlando sergeant as ‘amazing person, dedicated police officer'

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando police Chief John Mina described a 17-year veteran of the force who was gunned down by a homicide suspect, as a hero of the community.

“I’ve known Debra for 17 years. I will tell you that there was no one more passionate about the community she served,” Mina said.

Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, 42, died Monday morning at Orlando Regional Medical Center after Markeith Loyd shot her outside a Pine Hills-area Walmart, police said.

Her body was taken out of the hospital in an American flag-draped casket surrounded by officers.

Loyd had been wanted since December in the shooting death of his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

A full-fledged, multiagency manhunt remains underway for Loyd.

Story: Agencies show support for OPD, OCSO after death of officer, deputy

A customer tipped Clayton off about Loyd being in the store, and he shot at her multiple times as he fled, police said.

Mina said Clayton spent much of her time mentoring and helping at-risk youths in the community.

“She grew up here, she deeply cared about the community,” Mina said. “(She was involved) in all of our different community-engagement efforts, including the Parramore Kiz Zone. She played a huge part in Dueling Dragons, and Operation Positive Direction, two of our mentoring programs.”

She was also a school resource officer and worked for Commissioner Regina Hill.

“It’s hitting home. The same man that took her life, took the life of my friend’s daughter. I’m just numb,” Hill said.

The department hired her in 1999, a year after she graduated from the University of Central Florida.

Clayton sometimes worked off-duty to provide security and help direct traffic between services at the River of Life Christian Center in Orlando.

Brad Jackson, who works at and attends the church, said the congregation is devastated.

“They are definitely heartbroken and shocked by it,” Jackson said. “She was an outstanding officer. You couldn’t say nothing bad about her.”

She last worked at the church on New Year’s Eve.

Jackson said Clayton dedicated her life to serving the community and kept a good name for herself and the police department.

“It’s always tragic any time a police officer is killed in the line of duty, but she was so deeply involved in the community, it hurts all the more,” Mina said. “She will be forever missed.”

The Orlando Police Department tweeted a picture of a letter Clayton had received from Mina last year, thanking her for her hard work and saying that a citizen wrote to the department commending Clayton.

The Orlando Police Department tweeted a picture of a letter Clayton had received from Mina last year, thanking her for her hard work and saying that a citizen wrote to the department commending Clayton.

Part of the letter from Mina said, “We can count on you to go the extra mile.”

The department also tweeted a picture of Clayton as she interacted with children in the community. The tweet said, "THIS is how we know and remember Sergeant Debra Clayton. She always took a moment to interact with the community."

Clayton leaves behind a husband, who she had been married to for a year, and a son.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer proclaimed Monday as a day of mourning.