- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2017

Authorities launched on Monday a massive manhunt across Central Florida for a gunman who fatally shot an Orlando police officer who had tried to stop a suspect wanted for questioning in the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Orlando Police Department Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was shot and killed Monday morning near a Wal-Mart as she tried to make contact with 41-year-old Markeith Loyd, according to officials.

A person at the store told the officer that they recognized Loyd, who was wanted in connection with the December slaying of Sade Dixon, 24. Master Sgt. Clayton attempted to stop Loyd, and the two exchanged gunfire, with the officer being mortally wounded, officials said.

The subsequent pursuit and search for Loyd also turned deadly: Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy 1st Class Norman Lewis, 35, was killed when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle during the chase.

Authorities are offering a $60,000 reward for information that leads to Loyd’s capture, and promised to prosecute anyone caught helping him. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said that his deputies had been searching for Loyd for several weeks and believe someone had been assisting him.

Monday’s search was concentrated around an Orlando apartment complex near where Loyd abandoned a carjacked vehicle he used to flee. Police described him as armed and dangerous.

“It doesn’t matter where he is. We will track him down to the ends of the earth,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said Monday at a news conference.

Master Sgt. Clayton joined the Orlando Police Department in 1999, and is survived by a spouse and child.

Police officials said the officer had radioed in around 7:15 a.m. Monday to say she was “attempting to contact a murder suspect.” Less than two minutes later, she was mortally wounded by the gunman.

Officials said Master Sgt. Clayton fired several rounds from her service weapon, but they do not believe Loyd was injured by the gunfire.

Sheriff’s officials said Loyd was seen fleeing the Wal-Mart in the Orlando police officer’s squad car. He pulled into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex and fired at a deputy who was in pursuit, twice striking the deputy’s vehicle. The deputy was not injured.

Officials said Loyd abandoned the officer’s vehicle and carjacked another vehicle, which was later found abandoned.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said Monday that multiple federal agencies were helping with the ongoing manhunt.

“These tragic deaths make clear the great risks that our brave men and women in uniform face each and every day, and the deep and abiding gratitude that our nation owes them for their service,” Ms. Lynch said. “As they are responding to events in their community, they are often the first on the scene of dangerous events — as we saw when they responded to the shootings at the Fort Lauderdale Airport last Friday, when five innocent people lost their lives to a gunman.”

Loyd was wanted in the fatal shooting of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon. The Orlando Sentinel reported that authorities said Loyd had gone to her home and banged on the front door on Dec. 13. When she answered, he shot her and her brother, who was critically injured. Five others were home at the time of the shooting, including Dixon’s two young children.

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