Before her death, McKee tweeted a photo of the riots with smoke rising in the distance and the text, "Derry tonight".
The New IRA is a small group of republicans who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army's embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as "The Troubles" that claimed more than 3,700 lives.
Police have described the murder as a "terrorist incident" possibly carried out by dissident republican group the New IRA.
Police blamed the New IRA and said the intention was to kill officers.
Her partner Sara Canning paid tribute, saying "our hopes and dreams and all of her incredible potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act".
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"Unfortunately at 11 o'clock last night a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots towards the police and a young woman, Lyra McKee, 29 years old, was wounded" and later died, Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told journalists on Friday.
Ms McKee, who had tweeted about the "absolute madness" in the area in the hours before she lost her life, was standing near a police 4x4 vehicle when she was hit.
His comments come after two teens, aged 18 and 19, were been arrested and detained under the Terrorism Act in connection with the crime.
"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", Canning said, CNN reported. She supported people in coming out and used her own story to empower others to live as their most authentic selves, he added.
"We certainly believe there was more than one person who was involved in this last night". Members of the New IRA took responsibility for a January vehicle bombing in Derry, and for five package bombs that had been sent to addresses in London and Glasgow in March.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called McKee's death "shocking and truly senseless", and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was "a reminder of the vital importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland peace process".
His full Twitter post read: "Heartbreaking & depressing news of the eruption of youth violence in Northern Ireland & the appalling terrorist murder of young journalist #LyraMcKee in Derry". But her shooting, during rioting in Derry, is of political as well as bad personal significance. Lyra was a bright, intelligent and articulate writer with a witty, warm and fun loving personality and her murder has sent shock waves among the entire community. "But most of all, she was an outstanding individual, a great friend to so, so many people in this city in the short time that she was with us".