Opening statements begin in trial of man accused of killing Daytona Beach police officer

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — The trial for the man accused of shooting and killing a Daytona Beach police officer more than two years ago started Monday morning.


31-year-old Othal Wallace is charged with first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer. Investigators say he shot Officer Jason Raynor in the head two years ago during a confrontation behind Wallace’s apartment.

The 26-year-old officer died in the hospital nearly two months later. Now, the state is seeking the death penalty for Wallace.

READ: Dispatcher reads ‘last call’ for fallen Daytona Beach police officer Jason Raynor

“Sounds like the poster-child for the death penalty,” Criminal Defense Attorney Joe Castrofort said about the case. “But who knows?”

The clock is ticking for Wallace. His lawyer will have his first opportunity to convince jurors to spare his life on Monday.

Body camera video from the June 23, 2021 encounter shows officer Raynor approach a car that matched the description of one from a stolen vehicle report. Othal Wallace sat inside.

The two spoke briefly before Raynor was shot.

READ: ‘Heart of gold’: Who is Jason Raynor, the Daytona Beach police officer shot in the head?

The state will try to argue Raynor approached the car carefully while Wallace’s team is claiming the shooting was self-defense.

“Anything that lets them have a sentence of continuing to live, that gives them life in prison or whatever, it would be a victory,” Castrofort said. “So any excessive violence, for example, on the part of a police officer or any impropriety that they could somehow bring up or show could cause a jury to be sympathetic to him.”

After the shooting, investigators say Wallace left the scene and a nationwide manhunt began.

He was eventually found hiding inside a treehouse in Georgia several days later. Investigators say they found the murder weapon there as well.

READ: Daytona Beach police officer Jason Raynor dies after being shot in the head

As for the trial, it was moved to Clay County near Jacksonville after a judge determined the case was too well-known in Volusia County, where the shooting took place

“He’s still presumed innocent,” Castrofort said. “So we’ll have to see what this evidence shows.”

The trial starts Monday at 9 a.m. Channel 9 Eyewitness News will have live coverage throughout.

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