Not long before her murder, McKee tweeted a photo of the riots with the caption "Derry tonight".
Lyra at the time would have been no older than 24 but had already established herself as a fearless investigative journalist with her research into the murder of Robert Bradford, a Northern Irish MP, more than 30 years before.
"Sadly I can confirm that following shots being fired tonight in Creggan, a 29-year-old woman has been killed", Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said in a statement on Twitter. "Last night she was killed by a thug terrorizing people in Derry".
"The New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry", Hamilton said, referring to a small dissident republican group.
Sky's senior Ireland correspondent David Blevins said tensions had been building in Creggan in the run-up to Easter, when republicans mark the anniversary of the 1916 uprising against British rule in Ireland.
"We condemn such violence, and we are confident that the United Kingdom authorities will ascertain the exact circumstances of this tragic event", he said.
"The senseless murder of Lyra McKee has left a family without a beloved daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a great aunt", Canning told a vigil gathering. She had tweeted just minutes before being hit by a bullet.
She said: "One of my best friends, Lyra McKee, has been shot dead by republican dissidents in Derry".
McKee first gained prominence for a 2014 blog post called Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self, where she wrote about growing up gay in Belfast.
McKee was seen as a rising star, named to Forbes "30 under 30" list of notable media figures in 2016.
Journalist shot dead in Northern Ireland 'terrorist incident'
She said a gunman "came round the corner and fired shots indiscriminately towards police vehicles".
Leona O'Neill, who was at the scene, said she called an ambulance for the journalist.
Mr Hamilton offered his "deepest sympathies" to Ms McKee's family.
Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that she had "changed lives" through her work, and would continue to do so following her death. "Left so many friends without their confidant, victims and LGBT community left without a tireless advocate and activist, and has left me without the love of my life".
"This can not stand, Lyra's death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else's life and her legacy will live on and the life that she has left behind".
"This is a dark day for the people of Derry who have woken up to the shocking news of a senseless and violent death on its streets".
Irish President Michael D Higgins signed the condolence book at Belfast City Hall and spoke of the "outrage" in Ireland at the murder.
"Their intolerable actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people who want to build a peaceful and more prosperous future for everyone in Northern Ireland", according to the Financial Times.
There has been an uptick in violence in Northern Ireland amid heightened fears that sectarian violence might be revived over concerns about the effects of Brexit.
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