(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- For Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, Orlando was not only the community she helped protect every day for 17 years, it was her hometown.
And throughout her career, she not only served as an officer in the community she "deeply cared" about, but as a volunteer who loved to help children as well as a mentor, police said.
Monday morning Clayton, a wife and mother, was gunned down while in uniform and on duty, allegedly by a suspect in the murder of a pregnant woman.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said he had known Clayton, who has a college-age son, for her entire career there and called her a "hero" who "gave her life protecting the community that she loves."
"There's no one more passionate about the community she serves," Mina said.
The chief said that Clayton was "involved in many community engagement efforts and was always the first to step up and volunteer and help kids."
"She was in our mentoring programs where she personally traveled and mentored young kids in high school from this area and went to trips to Washington, D.C., and all over the country," he said.
"She was trying to do her part to make this community safer," Mina added. "She's going to be forever missed."
Clayton had been with the Orlando Police Department since 1999 and was promoted to Master Sergeant last year, the police said. She "deeply cared" about the community, the police said.
Her career was full of commendations, according to department documents. She and another officer were lauded in a 2005 letter to the Orlando police chief after they arrested someone for alleged weapons and drug possession.
"I am sure that usually, you only hear from people about the bad things that happen with your officers," Mark Simpson, who worked for the Orlando Housing Authority at Ivey Lane Homes, wrote in the letter to the chief. "I am happy to say that I have been extremely happy with all the officers that I have come in contact with.
"Their actions got a bad guy and his drugs off the street," Simpson wrote. "My thanks to you, and your officers for continuing to do an often thankless job and for caring the way they do about their work. You have a lot to be proud of."
Clayton was alone at around 7 a.m. Monday when she tried to stop the suspect, Markeith Loyd, 41, from fleeing near a Walmart, police said. She was shot multiple times, police said, and later died.
Police said Loyd is also wanted as a suspect in the murder of a pregnant woman. He's at-large and considered dangerous.
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