Suspect arrested in Florida police officer's killing

Orlando Police escort Markeith Loyd (centre) out of OPD headquarters in Orlando, Florida in this Jan 17, 2017 still image from an OPD video handout.
Orlando Police escort Markeith Loyd (centre) out of OPD headquarters in Orlando, Florida in this Jan 17, 2017 still image from an OPD video handout. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) A suspect wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of an Orlando, Florida, police officer was arrested Tuesday (Jan 17) after eluding the authorities for more than a week.

When the suspect, Markeith Loyd, was captured at an abandoned house in Orlando, he was wearing body armour and carrying two handguns, including one with a 100-round drum, the Orlando police chief, John W. Mina, said at a news conference Tuesday night.

At first, Loyd tried to escape through the back of the house but then came out the front, the chief said. He said Loyd's associates had ties to the house but would not specify how the authorities had known to look for him there. The chief said it was unclear how long Loyd had been there.

The officer who was killed, Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, was shot outside a Wal-Mart in Orlando on Jan 9 after she approached Loyd, who was wanted for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in December, officials said.

An Orange County sheriff's deputy spotted Loyd fleeing in Clayton's police vehicle after he shot her, the authorities said. He pulled into an apartment complex, fired at the deputy - who was not hurt - and stole another vehicle, which was later found abandoned nearby, the police said.

Clayton, a member of the Police Department for 17 years, was posthumously promoted to lieutenant. The department described her as a hero who was "deeply committed to the community and to police work." She was married with one son.

A deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Office also died on the day of the shooting during the search for Loyd after his motorcycle was hit by a van.

Mina said Loyd had been placed into custody wearing Clayton's handcuffs.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers had been searching for him, many of them living in their vehicles during the manhunt, the chief said.

"They were finally able to cry, and wept because it was finally over," he said of investigators.

The U.S. Marshals Service put Loyd on its list of most-wanted fugitives Tuesday and added US$25,000 to a US$100,000 reward for information that led to his arrest. It was not clear whether the reward would be awarded. The chief said the arrest had not come from a tip.

Three people have been charged with being accessories to first-degree murder after the fact in Dixon's death. The chief said he "absolutely" expected arrests of others who might have helped Loyd elude the authorities.

Referring to Loyd, the Orange County sheriff, Jerry L. Demings, said, "Our entire community will breathe a sigh of relief and sleep better tonight because this maniac, if you will, is off the streets."