UPDATE 1/17/2017 SUSPCT WAS ARRESTED HE HAD THESE GUNS ON HIM.
Debra Clayton, the 17-year Orlando police officer killed Monday morning, was hailed as a hero by Chief John Mina.
Suspect Markeith Loyd and Sergeant Debra Clayton
“She will be deeply missed,” Mina said
Clayton, 42, was married and the mother of an adult son who is in college, according to Mina. She was assigned to dayshift patrol and will be “missed beyond words.”
“She always had a smile [and] high five for every kid she came across,” the department tweeted.
Hours after the killing, friends gathered in front of her home on a tree-lined street in Ocoee, where neighbors say they shared power washers and tools with each other.
Teresa Sokolovic, a teacher at St. Cloud High School, met Clayton in December 2015 at a charity event at Camping World Stadium.
Orlando police Sgt. Debra Clayton enjoyed interacting with residents in the community. (Orlando Police Department)
Sokolovic said the two became fast friends, and Clayton spent two days at her home after a surgery to take care of her last year.
“I didn’t know anyone with a bigger heart,” she said, holding back tears. “She was an angel.”
Jonathan Thomas, Clayton’s cousin, said he grew up with her. She attended Dr. Phillips High School and later went into the police academy.
She always wanted to be a police officer, he said.
“It was her passion,” he said. “She wanted to be a police officer so she could do good and get bad people off the streets.”
Clayton was at a Wal-Mart in Pine Hills when suspect Markeith Loyd opened fire. She was hit multiple times and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center where she died, Mina said.
Mina said teams are in place to help Clayton’s family “that are going to be at their side continuously as they make plans for laying her to rest.”
He added that Clayton was involved with Parramore Kidz Zone and other mentoring programs.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings hired Clayton in 1999 when he was Orlando police chief and said he used to attend the same church with her.
“She is someone who I know very well,” he said. “My heart goes out to her family as well as the entire Orlando Police Department.”
Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer called for a day of mourning.
“She will be missed as a mother, as a wife, a daughter and a sister,” he said. “I know that our entire city will support the family in any way we can.”
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