Man suspected of shooting Florida police officer captured in a Georgia treehouse after days-long search
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Police on Saturday arrested the man suspected of shooting a Daytona Beach police officer in the head earlier this week, leaving the officer in critical condition and launching a days-long manhunt.
Police Chief Jakari Young said at an early Saturday press conference that the suspect, identified as Othal Wallace, 29, was captured while hiding in a treehouse in Dekalb County, Georgia, east of Atlanta.
Wallace was found in a remote wooded area with multiple weapons, ammunition and body armor.
The property where Wallace was found is affiliated with the pro-gun group known as the NFAC, an organization known to demonstrate against white supremacy and police violence, Young said.
Young said Wallace was being held in Georgia on Saturday morning, but would be returned to Volusia County, Florida, and held on a charge of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.
Young credited surveillance and technology for leading them to Wallace. While the reward for information leading to Wallace’s capture was raised Friday to $200,000, Young said no one qualified for the reward.
Meanwhile, the injured officer, Jason Raynor, 26, continues his recovery. Young said there were “very positive signs of improvement” in Raynor’s conditions.
Raynor was out of surgery on Thursday, according to a statement from the Daytona Beach Police Department.
“The surgery was fairly successful,” Young said Thursday at a news conference. “He still has a long way to go.”
Raynor is “fighting for his life,” said Young, who later described him as a resilient man with “a heart of gold.”
“I can tell you if he pulls through this, this cop would do everything in his power to return to full duty, and he will continue serving this community without an ounce of malice or hate in his heart for what happened to him because that’s just the type of person that he is,” Young said.
Raynor served with the Port Orange Police Department for three years prior to joining the Daytona Beach Police Department in February 2019, officials said.
Young said he woke Raynor’s family to tell them about the arrest.
“As you can imagine there was a huge sigh of relief,” Young said. “And I’m hoping they can get a few hours of sleep finally. Now they can just solely focus on Officer Raynor and his recovery.”
A GoFundMe page to support Raynor, established Friday, raised over $50,000 from over 700 donors within the first few hours. By Saturday morning, more than $170,000 had been raised.
“This hero has a long road ahead of him,” the GoFundMe page said.
Raynor was conducting a “proactive patrol” just before 9 p.m. Wednesday, Young said. The officer had radioed he was investigating a suspicious incident, according to a tweet from the police department.
“Upon arrival, he contacted a coward … and as he was escorting him out of the car, at some point, the suspect turns and shoots my officer one time in the head,” Young said.
Video of the shooting released by the Daytona Beach Police Department shows an officer approaching a vehicle, asking the man inside if he lives in the area.
The man gets out and asks, “What’s going on?” as the officer instructs him to sit back down. The man asks the officer to back up before the footage becomes shaky and a gunshot is heard.
Several minutes passed, and the officer didn’t respond to other officers calling him on the radio. When officers arrived, they found him lying on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound, according to a police statement. He was taken to a hospital.
A search of a nearby apartment, where police believed the gunman was, revealed a cache of weaponry, including at least three ballistic vests, multiple high-capacity magazines, a rifle and a semiautomatic handgun, Young said.
Although the suspect has served time in jail, he has not been sent to any Florida prison, according to online records. Wallace’s criminal record includes previous incidents involving domestic battery and one incident in which he was accused of wielding a gun to threaten a woman.
More than 500 officers from various agencies responded to help find Wallace, Young said.
“I’m grateful for every agency that has responded over here tonight to help us because they are committed to staying out here until we have this coward in custody,” Young said.
Contributing: Edward Segarra, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Daytona Beach officer shot: Police find suspect in Georgia treehouse