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The Daytona Beach Police Department suspects that a member of a militant group linked to several violent incidents in recent years is responsible for shooting one of their officers in the head during an encounter this week.
Now, police are staging a manhunt across multiple states for 29-year-old Othal Wallace, who’s a member of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a splinter group of the New Black Panther Party known for its anti-semitic and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. (Despite its name, the New Black Panther Party has no relationship to the influential Black Panther movement of the 1960s.)
Bodycam footage released by police hours after the shooting shows patrol officer Jason Raynor, a two-year veteran of the department, approach a gray Honda HRV parked outside of a residence around 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night. The officer found Wallace sitting inside.
“How’s it going, do you live here?” the officer is heard asking as Wallace gets out of the car.
“What’s going on?” Wallace responds as the officer places a hand on his shoulder and asks him to sit. “Sir. Come on now. Don’t do this. Why are you asking me if I live here?”
Wallace asks the officer to back up before a scuffle can be heard, during which police say the suspect fired a shot and injured officer Raynor.
Raynor was taken to Halifax Medical Center shortly after the shooting. Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said Thursday evening that Raynor remains in critical condition.
Images on a Facebook account that appears to belong to Wallace shows that he has had ties to several pro-Black militia groups over the years. A law enforcement official confirmed to VICE News that Wallace is currently a member of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
At one point in time, Wallace was a member of the Not Fucking Around Coalition (NFAC). He was photographed marching with the group in Louisville last year to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police during a botched no-knock raid. But the militia’s founder John “Grandmaster Jay” Fitzgerald Johnson told VICE News that Wallace hasn’t been a member of his organization since January 2021 and had since joined the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
"The NFAC is a strong law abiding organization that does not espouse anti-Semitic, left or right wing views,” Johnson told VICE News. “I only hope that this young Black man will be given the same level of care if apprehended that we see with so many whites.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense as a “bigoted, anti-white, antisemitic Black Nationalist group that preaches hate toward the LGBT and Jewish communities.” It formed in Atlanta in 2013 as a breakaway group from the New Black Panther Party following an internal power struggle over leadership.
The group has been linked to several acts of violence, including a 2016 ambush on Dallas police officers by a former military sniper, Micah Xavier Johnson. The New Black Panther Party for Self Defense said that Johnson had worked security for some of their events but had ultimately been asked to leave because he was pressuring them to acquire more guns and ammo. The following year, another member took his own life after killing his godfather and shooting a neighbor and paramedic who came to the scene.
Also in 2017, someone with ties to the group stormed into a church in Antioch, Tennessee, and opened fire, killing one and injuring seven. Investigators believe that the shooting was intended as retribution for the white supremacist attack on a Black church in Charleston years earlier that killed nine.
The New Black Panther Party for Self Defense did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
During a press conference Thursday, Daytona Beach Police Chief Young confirmed that he’s working alongside several other, unnamed law enforcement agencies across the country to find Wallace. Also on Thursday, the Atlanta Police Department said that Wallace’s vehicle had last been “pinged” near Stockbridge, Georgia, about 6 hours north of Daytona Beach.
Police are also offering $100,000 to anyone who has information leading to Wallace’s arrest.
“I’m still heartbroken. I’m hopeful and I’m keeping the faith that he’s going to pull through, but this was a senseless tragedy,” Young said Thursday evening.
A GoFundMe page raising funds to cover Raynor’s medical costs was started Friday morning and has already raised more than $72,000 as of Friday evening.