The trial for the man accused of shooting and killing a Daytona Beach police officer more than two years ago is set to begin Monday morning.
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Othal Wallace, 31, is charged with first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer. Investigators say he shot Officer Jason Raynor in the head during a confrontation behind Wallace’s apartment two years ago.
The 26-year-old officer died in hospital almost 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 textbook example of the death penalty,” criminal defense attorney Joe Castrofort said of the case. “But who knows?”
The clock is ticking for Wallace. His lawyer will have his first chance on Monday to convince jurors to spare his life.
Body camera video from the June 23, 2021 encounter shows Officer Raynor approaching a car matching the description of a car from a stolen vehicle report. Othal Wallace was inside.
The two spoke briefly before Raynor was shot.
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The state will try to argue that Raynor approached the car cautiously, while Wallace’s team claims the shooting was self-defense.
“Anything that gives them a chance to live, that gives them life in prison or whatever, would be a victory,” Castrofort said. “So any excessive force, for example on the part of a police officer, or any impropriety that they can bring out or show in some way could cause a jury to sympathize with him.”
After the shooting, investigators say Wallace left the scene and began a nationwide manhunt.
He was eventually found hiding in a treehouse in Georgia a few days later. Detectives say they also found the murder weapon there.
READ: Daytona Beach police officer Jason Raynor dies after being shot in the head
The trial was moved to Clay County near Jacksonville after a judge determined the case was too well known in Volusia County, where the shooting occurred.
“He is still presumed innocent,” Castrofort said. “So we’ll have to see what this evidence shows.”
The trial begins Monday at 9 a.m. Channel 9 Eyewitness News will report live throughout.
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