The manslaughter verdict in the Othal Wallace trial has left law enforcement uneasy and outraged.
Wallace admitted to shooting and killing Daytona Beach Police Officer Jason Raynor in 2021.
Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty if he had been convicted of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer. However, the manslaughter conviction means he can now only be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
Mike Scudiero, executive director of the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association, said officers are angry.
“It seemed like such a clear-cut case for a first-degree murder conviction. How do you justify shooting a police officer in the face and leaving him to die like a dog in the street?” Scudiero said.
Scudiero said police have every right to approach citizens, especially in high-crime areas. Wallace’s defense team argued otherwise and when he took the stand, Wallace said he was afraid for his life during his encounter with Raynor.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was also bothered by the verdict.
“This basically signals it’s open season on cops,” Chitwood said.
During deliberations, jurors asked five questions. Three were about illegal detainment, one about the location of the shooting and another about what is considered concealed carry.
Aaron Delgado, a Daytona Beach criminal defense and trial attorney, said after hearing the questions, he had a feeling the first-degree murder charge wouldn’t carry.
“I think it’s pretty clear that they didn’t view that as a police-citizen encounter, they viewed it as two citizens or something, and that’s based on the questions they were asking,” Delgado said.
Wallace’s sentencing will happen sometime in the next two months.
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