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Orlando Is On Edge As Search Continues For Suspect In Police Killing

Jan 12, 2017
Originally published on January 12, 2017 7:34 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a manhunt underway in Orlando. Police there are looking for a person who shot and killed one of their own. Her name is Master Sergeant Debra Clayton. Her department is remembering her and another officer who died in a car crash connected to the incident. From member station WMFE, Abe Aboraya reports.

ABE ABORAYA, BYLINE: Larry Parzygnat, an officer with the Welaka Police Department, drove nearly two hours to a makeshift memorial at a Wal-Mart in Orlando. He laid a police badge near a white cross.

LARRY PARZYGNAT: It's a very dangerous job, and any moment, it could be over. You just don't know.

ABORAYA: What we do know, it started early Monday at this Wal-Mart. Markeith Loyd has been wanted by police since December for the alleged murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Someone recognized Loyd at the Wal-Mart and told the nearest police officer. That was Master Sergeant Deborah Clayton. She radioed for backup and approach Loyd. Police say they exchanged gunfire, and Clayton died.

During the manhunt, Deputy Norman Lewis with the Orange County Sheriff's Office was killed during a traffic accident. He was an ex-University of Central Florida football player and described as a gentle giant.

The reward to find Loyd is up to $100,000. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says there have been more than 500 tips.

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JERRY DEMINGS: In fact, there were times when we just missed him. But he has been able to avoid capture. He's not going to be able to do that for much longer.

ABORAYA: Funerals for the officers are planned for tomorrow and Saturday. Emotions have been raw, including at this vigil for Clayton recorded and posted on the Orlando Police Department's Twitter feed.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

ABORAYA: Clayton was known for volunteering and mentoring to prevent youth violence. Her adult son, Johnny, spoke at the vigil, saying everything his mom worked for, she died for.

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JOHNNY CLAYTON: We've just got to keep pushing forward. We can make it a better city.

ABORAYA: To do that, law enforcement say they need to find the person who led to the deaths of two of their own this week.

For NPR News, I'm Abe Aboraya in Orlando. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.