A jury found Othal Wallace guilty of manslaughter, the lesser charger, in the 2021 shooting death of Daytona Beach, Florida police officer Jason Raynor.
The verdict was ready shortly before 11:30 a.m.
Following the guilty verdict, Wallace was immediately placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.
Wallace did not appear to have a visible reaction to the verdict. One of his lawyers placed a hand on Wallace's back briefly following the verdict.
The judge said sentencing would be held within 60 days, though a date was not immediately announced.
Closing arguments happened Friday and shortly after jurors began their deliberations. They asked the judge a series of questions during their deliberations.
State prosecutors argued during the trial that Wallace despised law enforcement when he fatally shot Officer Raynor on June 23, 2021. Wallace and his defense team argued that the shooting was in self-defense.
Officer Raynor was shot in the head and died weeks later at the hospital, officers and the medical examiner testified during the trial.
Wallace was found days after the shooting in a tree house in Atlanta, police said.
Here’s a breakdown of the evidence submitted, and the arguments made by both sides in the case.
The body camera videos
"At the end of the day, the video is the best evidence, and that’s what the jurors should be guided by," Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano told the jurors. He also frequently interrupted lawyers on both sides to remind them of that.
There are four total body camera videos that were submitted as evidence in this case.
The first body camera video presented to the jury was that of Amanda Dickens, the very first witness called to the stand. She now works as a deputy for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office but served as a Daytona Beach Police Officer at the time of Officer Raynor’s murder. The two were friends, and she was one of the first on the scene after he was shot.
Her body camera records her running up to Raynor, calling out to people standing around for them to bring a towel. Later in the trial, it was revealed that the woman who wound up delivering a towel was the mother of two of Othal Wallace’s children, and the person whose apartment Wallace was visiting.
The body camera recorded Dickens telling Officer Raynor, "Hang on. Hang on, bud."
On the witness stand, Dickens recalled the scene as traumatic.
"He was shot in the head. His left eye was hanging out, and he was bleeding profusely," she said. "I held his hand."
The State Attorney’s Office also submitted into evidence body camera footage from the very first officer on scene after Officer Raynor was shot, Officer Erlandson. This video is the most graphic of those shown in the trial.
The video shows Officer Raynor lying on the ground, with blood pouring from his face. Officer Erlandson gets a shirt from a person standing nearby and uses it to apply pressure to the gunshot wound as he attempts to ask Officer Raynor what happened and who was responsible for the shooting.
Officer Jason Raynor’s body camera footage was played in two forms during the trial: one that was in real-time but had been altered by the FBI to brighten it a bit, and one that was slowed down.
It shows Officer Raynor walking up to Othal Wallace’s car.
"Do you live here?" he asks as he walks up.
"What’s going on?" Wallace responds.
The two exchange those questions back and forth, neither answering the other, as Wallace places one hand on Wallace’s shoulder and asks Wallace to sit back down in his car.
Wallace ignores that command and tries to move past Officer Raynor, who then places a second hand on Wallace’s other shoulder, seeming to try to move him to sit back in the car.
After mere seconds, the two begin a brief struggle. A gunshot rings out, and Officer Raynor falls to the ground, with his chest facing up. Headlights shine over him, and the sound of tires screeching away comes moments later.
The Defense talked at length about something it referred to as a "30-second lookback."
An Axos Body Camera expert called in to testify and explained that the body cameras are constantly recording, but are programmed so that everything recorded automatically goes to a temporary memory card that erases after a certain period of time. If the body camera is activated, the footage stored in the temporary memory file automatically gets converted to permanent memory.
The Daytona Beach Police Department has its body-worn cameras set to keep a record of a 30-second period before going to permanent memory. The movement to permanent memory happens when an officer touches their camera twice, or if an officer draws a weapon.
However, that feature that records temporary memory is disabled through something called "Sleep Mode." Sleep Mode is incorporated to give officers privacy when they go into a locker room or bathroom or need to make a private phone call. The Defense says an audit of Officer Raynor’s body camera shows he enabled Sleep Mode four times the night of his death, and that it was enabled when he walked up to Wallace.
The Defense argued that it was impossible to fully understand why Officer Raynor approached Wallace initially because the footage of the incident begins as he’s already walking up, rather than 30 seconds prior. We don’t know what he saw that sparked him to approach.
Amanda Dickens: Part 2
A second video from Amanda Dickens’ body camera was also submitted as evidence. It shows an interaction she and Officer Raynor had earlier in the day when they both responded to a minor call. The Defense used this as support for their argument that Dickens and Raynor did not discuss a BOLO notice the Daytona Beach Police Department had sent out earlier. More on that in the BOLO section of this article.
The State maintains that Officer Raynor walked up to Othal Wallace because the police officer believed Wallace may have been in a stolen car. A "Be on the Lookout" notice had been sent out to all Daytona Beach police officers via email and radio, notifying them of a stolen vehicle that was spotted in their area.
Amanda Dickens testified that Officer Raynor mentioned to her on the evening of June 23 that he intended to look for the stolen vehicle mentioned in the BOLO. The vehicle Othal Wallace was sitting in was a silver or grey Honda, and that description overlapped with the BOLO.
The Defense refutes all aspects of that notion. Attorneys brought up that Dickens hadn’t mentioned anything about her discussion with Raynor regarding the BOLO until shortly before trial – two years after the conversation would have been held.
"How come your memory is so much better now?" the Defense asked Dickens.
"I've had time to reflect on that day to prepare for the trial," she answered.
The Prosecution also says Raynor may have seen Wallace smoking what he believed to be a marijuana cigarette (also called a joint) in his car. No marijuana was ever found on the scene, and Wallace says he was smoking a cigar. A packet of Swisher Sweet cigars was found in his car.
The Defense all but accused the Prosecution of fabricating those two stories to invent a reason why Officer Raynor may have gone up to Wallace. They maintain he had absolutely no reason to approach.
The Defense argues it’s a big deal if Officer Raynor had no reason to go up to Wallace because that would mean he was not operating in good faith. That’s a factor the jury has to consider when choosing whether Wallace is guilty of murder in the first degree.
Othal Wallace testified Thursday that he felt he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Officer Jason Raynor on June 23rd, 2021.
"I was just sitting in my car, just listening to music and smoking my cigarette," he told the jury about that evening. "I was just minding my business."
Wallace says he didn’t understand why Officer Raynor was approaching him and shining a light in his face, and that he tried several times to leave.
When Officer Raynor asked whether Wallace lived in that apartment complex, Wallace ignored the question, instead asking Raynor what was going on. Officer Raynor didn’t provide an explanation.
Wallace says this happened at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was still a major topic of discussion, along with many high-profile police shootings of Black people.
He testified that he felt Officer Raynor placed his hands on his shoulders to stop his movement and positioned his body to physically block Wallace in, restricting him from leaving. Wallace’s defense team argued he was not committing a crime and therefore had a legal right to leave. The Defense claims Officer Raynor was acting in bad faith by prohibiting Wallace from leaving.
"I was most definitely fearful because I didn’t know what was going on, I hadn’t had answers to my questions," said Wallace in his testimony about acting in self-defense. "I never ever in my life been in that situation. That was one of my worst fears was to be in that situation in the dark, with no witnesses."
Wallace and Officer Raynor started tussling.
"At that point, I was like, ‘This is not finna go right for me,’" Wallace told the jury. "There was a deep sense of fear."
The Prosecution has given evidence that Officer Raynor never drew any of his weapons. His duty belt showed his gun had never been unclipped or removed from its holster, and that his Taser was never drawn.
Wallace, however, says he believed Raynor was reaching toward his waistband, and the State had no evidence to disprove that testimony.
Wallace fired his gun within seconds.
The gunshot hit Officer Raynor on the left side of his head with a bullet that destroyed Raynor’s left eye and lodged itself near his right eye. Doctors had to remove part of Officer Raynor’s skull to prevent swelling and had to take out the bullet and shrapnel fragments through multiple surgeries.
Wallace told the jury that at the moment, he felt he had no choice but to shoot Officer Raynor, in order to get away.
But Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis argued that Wallace did have another choice: he could have simply answered Officer Raynor’s questions and sat back down in the car when told.
"You could have complied," said Lewis. "This whole situation could have been diffused if you just listened to the law enforcement officer."
The Instagram posts
The jury is discussing whether Wallace’s actions were premeditated. That would lead them to find him guilty of murder in the first degree, as opposed to felony murder.
The prosecution brought up posts Wallace made to social media in the weeks leading up to the murder, which they believe demonstrate an element of premeditation.
In one Instagram post, Wallace wrote, "One day, I will take great pride and honor in getting me some pig’s blood on my hands and boots."
When Wallace took the stand in his own defense Thursday, he testified that the posts he made were not evidence of premeditation, or even of a hatred for law enforcement. He says he was basically using the platform as a space to vent, but that his words didn’t carry any weight.
"They were just things I said out of frustration," said Wallace. "I’m very expressive, overly expressive. I get upset. Sometimes I vent about things online."
As for the "pigs blood" post, he said it came in response to police killings of Black men that were often in the news at the time. However, he maintains that the word "pigs" didn’t specifically refer to law enforcement officers. Instead, Wallace claims he was referring to "anyone who didn’t see [him] as human."
The Defense pointed out that the Prosecution only presented three posts out of over 5,000 on Wallace’s accounts that seemed to hold a negative view toward police.
"The pigs blood statement was probably the stupidest statement I could have made. At the time, there was a lot going on in our country, people was getting killed."
In another exchange the Prosecution presented as expressing hatred for police, Wallace claims he was actually talking about the anger he felt toward the people who control Instagram.
About fifteen minutes after the shooting that eventually killed Officer Raynor, Wallace posted an Instagram story.
"I want y’all to know something man, I love y’all," Wallace says in the video. "Black power. Stay strong as a nation. Don’t let these p**** a** pigs f*** with you. I love y’all, Black power."
In its cross-examination of Wallace, and during its closing arguments, the State asserted that Wallace sounded excited when he made those statements. The girlfriend of Wallace’s brother testified that Wallace didn’t seem sad or hysterical in the car while she drove Wallace to a hideout in Georgia the night of the shooting.
When Wallace was finally found, he was discovered hiding in a treehouse in Snellville, Georgia. A review of cell phone records shows that the brother’s girlfriend, Latara Bodison, drove Wallace and Wallace’s brother Octavius from Gainesville to Snellville, arriving shortly before 6:00 a.m. on June 24th. Bodison testified that she and Octavius Wallace headed straight back to Gainesville after dropping Wallace off, arriving around noon.
Agent Brett Antwine with the ATF was one of the responders at that treehouse. He testified that he found a Glock-17 under Wallace’s bed with 16 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. He also found an AK-stye long gun with a banana clip and a 30-round magazine. Antwine says in total, there were over 500 rounds of ammunition available in the treehouse.
When Wallace was caught, he had the higher ground over the law enforcement officers.
"If he’d wanted to, he could have opened up fire on you, the Defense said. "And you wouldn’t have known, because you didn’t know the treehouse existed."
Agent Jonathan Salcedo, a Georgia State Trooper who was part of the SWAT team serving a search warrant on the property in Snellville, agreed with that statement, recalling Wallace was cooperative and polite with the officers bringing him into custody.
"We opened the door and made contact with an individual who was laying on the ground, with his hands facing toward the door," Officer Salcedo recalled.
The Defense argued that the State’s allegations that Wallace hated law enforcement officers and wanted to kill them didn’t hold up because he had the opportunity to murder several of them while he was in the treehouse, and instead allowed himself to be taken in without incident,
Cody Cassidy, a Daytona Beach Police Officer working with the U.S. Marshal’s Service, says when he was with Wallace just after his arrest, Wallace commented on the fact that he could have killed officers and chose not to.
"You already know who I am. You know what I’m capable of. Things could have been a lot worse," Cassidy testified Wallace told him.
The State spent quite a bit of time on witnesses who testified to DNA evidence linking Wallace to the crime. Ballistic evidence proved a shell found on the scene was indeed fired from the weapon the State alleges was used to kill Officer Raynor, and Wallace’s DNA was found on that gun.
The Defense says that the entire span of testimony was unnecessary since Wallace isn’t refuting that the gun belonged to him, or that he pulled the trigger. What does matter is whether the gun was concealed. Wallace testified that he had the gun in his glovebox, and had just moved it into his pocket to carry into the apartment when Officer Raynor walked up to him.
Wallace says he’d applied for a concealed carry permit, and that he assumed he’d been approved because he’d been officially hired as a security guard. However, the State says that assumption isn’t legally binding, and he was not permitted to have the gun concealed.
That matters because it plays into one of the factors the jury has to consider when deciding whether Wallace is guilty, and what he’s guilty of. The Defense maintains Wallace was doing nothing wrong when Officer Raynor approached him; the Prosecution says he was committing a criminal act as Officer Raynor walked up because he was illegally concealing a firearm.
Jury deliberations: first degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, or none
The jury ultimately found Othal Wallace guilty of manslaughter. However, they had options: first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, or none.
Here is a look at the jury instructions – what jurors needed to consider – in order to find Wallace guilty or not for each charge.
In order for the jury to convict Wallace of Premeditated Murder, they must rule that the state proved each one of these standards:
- Jason Raynor is dead.
- The death was caused by a criminal act.
- There was a premeditated killing. Killing with premeditation is killing after consciously deciding to do so. The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection, but the court doesn’t specify how long before. If the jury decides Wallace acted in the heat of action based on adequate provocation, and that a normal person would have lost self-control, then the murder would not be considered premeditated.
- Killing with premeditation is killing after consciously deciding to do so. The decision must be present in the mind at the time of the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection, but the court doesn’t specify how long before.
- If the jury decides Wallace acted in the heat of action based on adequate provocation, and that a normal person would have lost self-control, then the murder would not be considered premeditated.
- Jason Raynor was a law enforcement officer.
- Othal Wallace knew Jason Raynor was a law enforcement officer.
- Jason Raynor was engaged in the lawful performance of legal duty.The law enforcement officer must have been acting in good faith. If the law enforcement officer was using excessive force and therefore operating outside the scope of their duty, for instance, then that would not constitute legal duty and this point cannot be validated.
- The law enforcement officer must have been acting in good faith. If the law enforcement officer was using excessive force and therefore operating outside the scope of their duty, for instance, then that would not constitute legal duty and this point cannot be validated.
In order for the jury to convict Wallace of Felony Murder, they must rule that the state proved each one of these standards beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Jason Raynor is dead.
- Othal Wallace caused the death of Jason Raynor.
- Othal Wallace was the person who actually killed Jason Raynor.
- Jason Raynor was a law enforcement officer.
- Othal Wallace knew Jason Raynor was a law enforcement officer.
- Jason Raynor was engaged in the lawful performance of legal duty.
The jury can also decide that the main accusation of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they then have to decide whether Wallace’s actions constitute a lesser crime. They can choose from the lesser crimes, which are in this order of severity: first-degree murder, second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, second-degree murder, and manslaughter.
To prove second-degree murder, the State must show Wallace did something "demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life." The act that resulted in a death doesn’t necessarily have been done with the intent to kill but must demonstrate ill will and a disregard for human life.
To prove manslaughter, the jury must simply find that Wallace caused Officer Raynor’s death by either culpable negligence or by a criminal act.