Messages of hope shared at vigil to honor fallen law enforcement officers

By Jeff Allen and Erin Murray, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 11:16 PM EST

Messages of hope and remembrance were shared Tuesday night at a candlelight vigil to honor the two law enforcement officers who were killed Monday in the line of duty. 

A crowd of a few hundred people gathered at 7 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store on West Princeton Street and John Young Parkway, where Orlando Police Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was killed.

The crowd prayed and took turns sharing the positive qualities of both Clayton and Orange County Deputy 1st Class Norman Lewis, who was killed in a vehicle crash Monday during the manhunt for suspected killer Markeith Loyd.

The memorial outside the Wal-Mart continues to grow.

All day Tuesday, people came out of the store or drove by to visit the memorial. 

Clayton's sister stopped by the memorial because she said it's the only way she felt she could be close to her sister.

"I couldn't believe it, and I'm still in shock that it happened," Ashley Thomas said. "I just wish it was a bad dream, and that it would go away. ... My sister, she was a beautiful woman. She did what she could for anybody, and she raised me and my brother, and I'm going to miss her."

Thomas and Clayton's son, Johnny Brinson, were both at the vigil to honor Clayton, a 17-year law-enforcement veteran, wife and mother who worked to reduce violence in some of Orlando's toughest neighborhoods.

"She loved the people, and she loved to save people and help people," Brinson told the crowd. "She gave her life for this right here."


Ashley Thomas, the sister of slain Orlando Police Officer Debra Clayton, visits the makeshift memorial Tuesday outside the Wal-Mart on West Princeton Street where Clayton was gunned down a day earlier. (News 13)


People have been leaving flowers, candles and balloons at a makeshift memorial in front of the Wal-Mart on West Princeton Street in Orlando. (News 13)