Suspected Fla. cop killer still at large
A $60K reward is offered for information leading to Markeith Loyd's capture
By Rene Stutzman and Stephanie Allen
ORLANDO, Fla. — Hundreds of law enforcement officers are searching overnight for a fugitive who is accused of killing a cop at dawn on Monday when she tried to chase him down at a Wal-Mart and arrest him.
A second law-enforcement official died in a crash just hours later as officers and deputies scrambled to find the murder suspect.
By Monday evening, officers largely abandoned the apartment complex in northwest Orlando that was the focus of their search for much of the day, and Markeith Loyd, 41, was still at large.
"We are going to bring this dirtbag to justice, and he's going to jail," Orlando Police Chief John Mina said.
Loyd has been wanted for murder since his pregnant ex-girlfriend was shot at her front door on Dec. 13.
He has a long criminal history and on Nov. 30 wrote on his Facebook page: "Goals!!!! To be on Americas most wanted."
The manhunt prompted the lockdown of more than a dozen schools and snarled traffic for hours.
"If you don't have to be out, don't be out," Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said Monday morning.
A $60,000 reward was offered for information leading to Loyd's capture, and both Orlando police and the Sheriff's Office described him as armed and dangerous.
The violence started about 7:15 a.m. at the Wal-Mart at John Young Parkway and Princeton Street, when someone spotted Loyd, knew he was wanted for murder and told Orlando police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, who also happened to be at the store.
She was on the job, in uniform and wearing body armor, Mina said. She called dispatch, then started chasing after Loyd.
She yelled for him to "stop" but instead the felon opened fire. She shot back but didn't hit him, Mina said.
Backup officers who arrived 28 seconds later tried to save Clayton with CPR, according to the city, but she was pronounced dead at 7:40 a.m. at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
A short distance from the Wal-Mart, a captain at the Orange County Sheriff's Office spotted Loyd near Pine Hills Road and North Lane, according to that department.
Loyd pulled into an apartment complex and fired at least once at the deputy, who was in an unmarked SUV. The bullet missed him but hit his SUV.
The suspect then carjacked a vehicle and fled. He abandoned that vehicle near Cinderlane Parkway, officials said.
A massive manhunt for Loyd resulted in two motorcycle crashes by Orange County deputies, one fatal.
Deputy Norman Lewis, 35, an 11-year Sheriff's Office veteran and former football player at the University of Central Florida, was killed 2-1/2 hours after the shooting.
He was traveling south on Pine Hills Road on his motorcycle when he was struck by a van turning left onto Balboa Drive, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
"We're sad on this day for many reasons," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at a morning news conference at the hospital. "In my 36-year career, this is possibly one of the toughest days for me."
The driver of the van, Billie Jarrard of Clermont, could possibly face charges in the crash, troopers said. No one answered the phone Monday at Jarrard's home. Records show he is a 78-year-old recent widower with no criminal history in Florida.
Ten minutes after Lewis' crash, another deputy was involved in a wreck that sent him to the hospital. It happened just 200 yards down Pine Hills Road. Orange County Deputy Nelson Borjas, 46, had minor injuries and is expected to recover.
Officer called a hero
Clayton is the first Orlando officer killed in the line of duty in a decade. The last was Al Gordon, who was shot during a robbery Oct. 4, 2007, the agency reported.
Clayton, who is survived by a husband and college-age son, was one of the first officers to respond to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in June that left 49 people dead and scores injured.
Mina called her a hero. "She gave her life for the community she loves."
TaQueria Jones, a Wal-Mart cashier, said Clayton checked out at her register minutes before the shooting.
"We talked about family, we talked about God," Jones said.
While the suspect was still at large, the cashier and others planted flowers in a spot just feet from where Clayton was killed.
"I'm going to be out here every day to straighten them up. Every day," Jones vowed.
Lewis, who had been with the Sheriff's Office since March 2005, was a member of the motors/DUI unit.
Both Lewis and Clayton had degrees from the University of Central Florida.
"They are heroes and Knights forever," UCF President John Hitt said.
Deputies had been on the lookout for Loyd for weeks because of a murder warrant: He's accused of murdering his pregnant 24-year-old ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, on Dec. 13 and wounding her 26-year-old brother, Ronald Steward. They were shot at an Orange County home on Long Peak Drive.
Loyd has a long criminal record and served 10 years in prison and five years on probation for conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine, according to federal court records.
"To lose two law enforcement officers on this Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is indeed a tragedy," Demings said. ... "It's a reminder that law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day to protect all of us."
Gov. Rick Scott was in Orlando on Monday for a business meeting, but that was canceled and he joined Mina, Demings and other local officials at a morning news conference.
"It breaks my heart that one of them was already senselessly killed this morning," Scott said.
Apartments focus of search
On Monday, officers searched dozens of apartments, single-family homes and vehicles in the Rosemont neighborhood. Much of the search focused on the Eagle Reserve apartment complex.
An Orlando SWAT team as well as armored vehicles and a helicopter came and went twice to the complex on Cinderlane Parkway, where Loyd was last spotted by law enforcement Monday morning after the shooting.
They pulled out for the second time about 6 p.m., but only after leaving some residents barred from their homes or from getting to work for several hours.
Lupe Garcia and her 9-year-old son, Migul Hidalgo, were stuck outside their home for most of the day.
Garcia walked to drop him off at school and came back to find her home surrounded in crime scene tape with dozens of officers holding long guns.
"It's scary," she said before she was let back into the complex.
After she picked her son up, they waited with dozens of others outside the complex.
Migul said as he and his mom were waiting, an Orange County deputy flagged him down and asked if he was hungry.
The deputy pulled out a chocolate protein bar and gave it to the boy.