GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - Othal Wallace, the man charged with the murder of a local police officer, has been convicted with the lesser charge of manslaughter in the case. The verdict comes to the relief of Wallace's defense and advocates, and to the chagrin of the family of the late Officer Jason Raynor.
Accounts of the event in question state that, on June 23rd, 2021, Daytona Beach Police Department Officer Jason Raynor approached Wallace as he was sitting in his car behind his apartment. Wallace has said he was out smoking Swisher Sweets. Raynor confronted and questioned Wallace, and a struggle soon ensued. Wallace shot Raynor in the head, critically wounding him. He died 55 days later in hospital care.
Wallace, meanwhile, was found two days later in a tree house in DeKalb County, Georgia, near Atlanta. The property he was hiding in is owned by a group called NFAC, a Black nationalist organization. Wallace himself is a former NFAC member, though the group distanced itself from him in the days following the shooting.
After Raynor succumbed to his wounds, the charges against Wallace were increased to murder. The trial was eventually moved out of Volusia County at the request of Wallace's defense, who argued that the publicity surrounding the case would make a local and impartial trial impossible.
During the trial, Wallace took the stand in his own defense, a surprising move to those following the case. The jury went on to deliberate for 11 hours before returning a not guilty verdict on the first degree murder charge, while convicting him of manslaughter.
Neither the families of Wallace nor Raynor spoke to media at the trial's conclusion. Supporters of the prosecution have pointed to statements made to social media by Wallace such as "1 day I will take great pride and honor in getting me some pigs blood on my Hands and boots". That statement did come up in the trial, and although 'pig' is a common derogatory term for law enforcement officers, Wallace contested that he merely meant anyone who treated him as less than human.
Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood, known for his outspokenness, was incensed by the verdict. "It’s open season on law enforcement," Chitwood said. "[Raynor's] life may not matter to the jury, but it mattered to us [...] I have never been more disgusted by a verdict than I am today."
Raynor's boss, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young, was similarly disappointed. "It is difficult to come to terms with a verdict that is not commensurate with the despicable crime that was committed or the loss that we and Jason's loved ones have endured," Young said. "There is no verdict that would bring Jason back or change how his life ended, but a verdict that brought justice to his surviving family would have offered some semblance of solace."
Manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison in Florida, or up to 30 when a firearm is present (as is the case with Wallace). Othal Wallace is 31 years old, meaning he still may live the majority of his life in the free world.