TAMPA (FOX 13) - Orlando police on Twitter called it "tragic irony" that one of their officers and an Orange County Sheriff's deputy died on duty on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day -- a time when communities are asked to show their support for the men and women who serve and protect them daily.
Orlando Police Master Sergeant Debra Clayton was shot and killed while chasing a murder suspect Monday morning. Deputy Norman Lewis, a motorcycle deputy, died in a car crash during the pursuit of the same suspect.
Some law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area showed their support for the fallen officers on social media by posting pictures of badges with black stripes.
“We may not know the people across the state or even across the country, but we understand the plight that they go through and the things that they deal with on a daily basis," said Master Deputy Jerry Carey with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Carey said Monday's tragedy is a sad reminder of the dangers every law enforcement officers can face on the job.
"You realize that you don’t know if you’re going to go home at the end of your shift. Things happen so quickly at a moment’s notice," he continued.
He and several colleagues at HCSO created a social media campaign about a year ago as a morale-booster for deputies. They gave deputies signs bearing the hashtag "YourSupportMatters."
The campaign spotlights the many people who show their support for law enforcement throughout Hillsborough County, either through thank-you letters, food donations or a simple handshake.
Carey said the campaign has had a major impact, both showing deputies that their work matters and showing the community that their support is what helps law enforcement do their job.
“It’s just refreshing for our people to see that, and law enforcement in general to see that people actually care about the job," said Carey.
As a showing of appreciation, McDonald's restaurants throughout the Bay Area offered free meals all day Monday to all law enforcement officers.
Managers at the restaurant on Spruce Street in Tampa said they saw a number of police officers, deputies and highway patrol troopers stopping by to eat.
“They’re always here to help us out, whether we need help controlling the traffic or helping with special events or any type of thing that could occur at the restaurant. They’re always here to help us, so we like to say thanks to them," said general manager Michael Bowen.
“It’s those small little things, like the thank-yous and the notes that people leave on the deputies’ cars, that makes all the difference, because as you know, the job is not the easiest in the world," said Carey.