CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Closing arguments wrapped up Thursday night in the murder trial of a man accused of fatally shooting a Daytona Beach officer in 2021.
Othal Wallace faces the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Officer Jason Raynor, who was shot in June 2021 while investigating a suspicious vehicle.
Wallace was called to the stand as the defense’s only witness Thursday to testify. He took the stand for several hours defending his case.
Prosecutors said on June 23, 2021, Raynor was acting lawfully when trying to question Wallace. The defense argues that interaction ended with Wallace shooting Raynor in self-defense.
“I noticed an individual with a flashlight. I didn’t know he was Jason Raynor,” Wallace said.
Wallace said he thought Raynor was reaching toward his belt where his gun was, so Wallace took a gun out of his pocket and shot him.
“When I saw him start reaching, it was my biggest fear,” he said.
Prosecutors said he then drove to Gainesville, ditched his car and got a ride to a property in Georgia, where he was caught later.
“I felt in that moment there was no other way to get out of the situation,” he said about pulling a firearm. “... There’s a situation outside of my control, I just did what I could to survive that encounter.”
The jury — comprised of nine women and six men — will receive instructions for deliberations on Friday morning.
A couple of doctors testified about the injuries Raynor suffered after the shooting on Wednesday. He died 55 days after he was brought into the hospital.
The Volusia medical examiner and the doctors said severe bleeding stopped any progress Raynor could have made. They said he suffered a gunshot wound to the head that had complications.
Wallace’s trial is happening in Clay County after his defense team argued it would be difficult to find an impartial jury in Volusia County because of how much coverage the case has received.
Raynor, who had been with the Daytona Beach Police Department for about three years, was rushed to Halifax Health in grave condition after he was shot in the head. He had remained in critical condition following surgery until officials said on Aug. 17 that he died as the result of his injuries. Raynor was laid to rest on Aug. 23 and a tribute that took place across Volusia County.
Wallace was arrested in a multi-state manhunt 56 hours after the shooting.
Get today’s headlines in minutes with Your Florida Daily: