It was a terrible day in Central Florida. Two law enforcement officers from the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office lost their lives. Markeith Loyd, a murder suspect on the loose for several weeks was recognized by a witness at a Walmart on Princeton Street in Orlando. The witness told Master Sergeant Debra Clayton (who also happened to be at Walmart) of the Orlando Police Department. Clayton chased Loyd, but was shot and killed by him in that pursuit. Clayton was a 17-year veteran of the OPD, and was a well known community activist with a passion for children.
Two hours later OCSO Deputy First Class Norman Lewis lost his life after a traffic crash at the intersection of Balboa and North Pine Hills Road in Orlando. Lewis was in search of Loyd when the crash occurred. He was 35 years old and had been with the OCSO since March of 2005. He was a member of the OCSO Motors/DUI Unit. He was a graduate of the University of Central Florida where he played football for the Knights.
After shooting Clayton, Loyd stole a car, shot at another law enforcement officer, apparently fled into an apartment complex and disappeared into the Pine Hills/Rosemont neighborhoods. He remains at large despite a manhunt that involved hundreds of law enforcement officers and multiple agencies.
Pine Hills is not far from Apopka. In fact in the past few weeks the two communities have stood in comparison of one another. But when two law enforcement officers lose their lives in Central Florida on the same day, everyone feels compelled to show concern, offer support and prayers.
Central Florida becomes one big community.
The Apopka Police Department sent three units to work a perimeter from approximately 8AM until noon.
It was also around noon that Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer expressed his concerns and called for prayers on his Facebook page.
"It is a sad and somber day for law enforcement in Central Florida. I ask all Apopka-area residents to offer prayers for the two officers -- and their families -- who fell today in serving their community. I also ask for your prayers for our first responders in Apopka. Days like today fall heavily on the shoulders of our police officers and firefighters. It brings home the all-too-stark reality of the risks that accompany their jobs."
Apopka Comissioner Diane Velazquez is a retired New York City Police Department Detective. Her husband Ed is also a retired NYPD officer. Her son is a current police officer. Her law enforcement roots run deep, so it was not surprising to see the emotion in her statement.
"I'm deeply saddened by the death of two police officers today that were performing their duties. Master Sergeant Debra Clayton was gunned down while responding to a call. The other officer, Norman Lewis, lost his life while responding to assist in the search of the perpetrator in Pine Hills. My deepest and most sincere condolences go to their families; their comrades and friends.
As a retired law enforcement officer myself, I understand the risk police officers take every day to keep us safe. But to lose these two police officers in this manner is more than a tragedy, it is senseless loss of life.
These two law enforcement officers will not be forgotten and will always be remembered for their dedication to duty and sadly, today, their end of watch, the ultimate sacrifice made in the performance of their duty. A tremendous loss in the communities each served."
Doug Bankson is an Apopka City Commissioner, a pastor and a Chaplain for the APD. In his comments about these events, he described a bigger systemic problem.
"This is a despicable and tragic act as we see two more of our public servants added to the list of those lost in the line of duty. This underscores the deeper moral issues that law alone cannot solve. As we mourn the loss of these everyday heroes, let us pray for their families, and recommit ourselves to respect of all lives and of the men and women that keep us safe every day."
Central Florida lost two of those men and women who keep us safe every day. Debra Clayton and Norman Lewis died protecting the community they loved. And despite an unprecedented manhunt, Markeith Loyd remains in the wind, Central Florida continues to grieve, and Pine Hills continues to bleed.
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