Bad news befell the Daytona Beach community when police officer Jason Raynor passed away on 17 August. The 26-year-old was first taken to Halifax Medical Center in Volusia County back in June after being shot in the head while on duty, where he remained in critical condition ever since. Unfortunately, the situation has now ended in the way everyone hoped it wouldn’t.
The death was announced the day after by Chief Jakari Young of the Daytona Beach Police force, who spoke of the “senseless tragedy” and promised the young man’s sacrifice wouldn’t be forgotten.
Raynor’s funeral took place on 23 August at Daytona Beach’s Ocean Center Convention Center, exactly two months after his tragic death. The event wasn’t open to the public or the media, but his loved ones attended, along with various law enforcement officers and even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Chief Jakari Young and a family member spoke at the funeral, and the ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute carried out by hundreds of emergency services and law enforcement workers.
At the end of the event, a dispatcher issued an end of watch call stating that: “No other boots on the ground can take your place. Rest easy. We have it from here.”
Then, a wider array of people — including community members — joined a procession to take Raynor’s body to its resting place, which passed all through the town. Some lined up along the International Speedway Boulevard from Beach Street to Nova Street while waving flags in the colors of the police force. The entire downtown region was filled with community members showing their respects and thanking the officer for his service.
Flags were also flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset at the police department (as ordered by the state Governor).
The day before the funeral, there was a viewing, which took place on Sunday afternoon while the casket was closed. There was a display of items donated to the Raynor family.
Backstory to the tragedy
On June 23, Raynor was investigating a reported crime on 133 Kingston Avenue when he went to investigate a suspicious vehicle. Unfortunately, he got into a confrontation with the man inside the vehicle. As the police officer walked away from the car, he was shot in the head and fell to the ground, as later shown by police camera videos.
There has been some hope sparked along the way. While Raynor was in hospital, the Daytona Beach Police made a statement (on July 14) that the man had shown some signs of improvement. However, it was later revealed that the statement had been a mistake and that more information wouldn’t be released out of respect for the victim. It’s now apparent that the officer’s condition had been deteriorating and not improving.
The situation is a beyond tragic turn of events for a man who had constantly shown generous bravery; he even saved the life of a woman threatening to commit suicide back in 2018.
A few days after the officer’s hospitalization, police arrested a suspect named Othello Wallace for his alleged involvement in the crime. Soon after, the 29-year-old man was charged with attempted first-degree murder; he’s currently being held in Florida, where he may face the death penalty.
At the start of September, Wallace was given his official indictment by a grand jury, meaning that the final decision about his fate will be down to state officials. It’s recently emerged that there’s further evidence to convict Wallace after DNA was found on a weapon at the crime scene, so it’s likely he’ll face a harsh sentence.
Raynor’s family has now filed a lawsuit against suspect Othal Wallace, asking for $5 million in damages due to the emotional distress caused by the unjust death.
Respects from the community
The Daytona Beach community has paid its respects to the late police officer by holding an entire week of mourning.
On the first night after Raynor’s death, law enforcement officers carried a procession from the hospital to his funeral home. Then, two days later, the officer’s patrol car (which he was driving on the fateful night he was shot) was moved to the police department and there was a wreath-laying ceremony attended by hundreds of locals.
The Daytona Beach Police Department left a memorial outside its Volor Boulevard headquarters, a video of which it posted on Twitter. At the center was a police car with a photo of the officer, alongside plenty of flower bouquets and other gifts. Many community members paid their respects at the site, and even police officers from other departments from other states visited.
It also put together various private video messages, which they presented to Raynor’s family as a sign of respect.
Raynor’s ordeal inspired community efforts right from the start, as locals rushed to arrange blood donations and fundraising efforts to look after his family, in addition to placing yard signs in his honor. Initiatives ranged from lemonade stands to poker runs, and every tiny gesture has gone a long way toward helping the officer’s family cope with their grief.
Remembering a legend
Nobody in the Daytona Beach Community wanted things to end this way, but we can find some solace in knowing that Raynor died with honor and managed to unite the community in so many different ways.
As Chief Jakari Young said, the sacrifice won’t be forgotten.