The family of Walter Wallace, a black man that was shot to death by police officers in Philadelphia on Monday, has spoken out about the incident. After viewing the bodycam footage, they are calling for justice for Wallace.
Law enforcement is set to release the bodycam footage of the incident that took Wallace’s life shortly. “I would like to see justice done for what they did to my son,” said Kathy Brant, Wallace’s mother.
Two police officers shot Wallace after been called to a West Philadelphia neighborhood. The 27-year-old approached the officers while brandishing a knife shortly before being gunned down. His family explained that he was experiencing a mental health crisis.
“I saw a person in obvious mental health crisis,” the Wallace family attorney, Shaka Johnson, said to reporters. “My auditory senses heard people shouting, ‘He’s mental, he’s mental.'”
However, unlike other similar stories, Wallace’s family does not want the officers to face murder charges. “And here’s why, here’s why: They were improperly trained and did not have the proper equipment by which to effectuate their job,” Johnson argued.
The cell phone video footage shows the officers backing up with their guns drawn while repeatedly telling Wallace to drop his knife. Johnson suggested that the bodycam footage shows that the officers immediately drew their weapons instead of attempting to de-escalate the situation.
Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., slammed Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny over his response to the incident.
“This mayor, he’s a coward. Any kind of man for the people, he would come down here … come down here and talk to you,” he fumed. “That ain’t his kid. He don’t got to bury nobody. He don’t know what pain and suffering is.”
Both of the officers fired seven shots at the deceased, and neither carried a taser. “None of the 14 shots were necessary, but if you were going to shoot, the first shot incapacitated the man,” Johnson said. “There were 13 shots to follow, which is why he is no longer with us.”
The shooting ignited peaceful and violent demonstrations across the city. Rioters and looters have been engaging in violence for three nights in a row so far and have injured 30 officers. Dozens of demonstrators have been arrested. During the day, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators marched through the city, demanding justice.
The Philadelphia Police Department stated that it does not know if the officers knew about Wallace’s mental health issues at the time. Officers had answered calls to the home twice earlier in the day. The family and bystanders stated that they informed the two individuals involved in the shooting that Wallace was mentally ill.
Johnson indicated that the city failed the Wallace family and the police department.
“The city has failed, not only the Wallace family, not only the other members of that community, who will be scarred and traumatized for the remainder of their days, but the city has also failed those police officers, it failed them tremendously,” he asserted. “The only remedy the police had, in that moment per their thinking, was their service weapon. There was no less lethal action available. And that has been our war cry ever since Tuesday.”
The mayor stated that there would be an investigation into the shooting. The cell phone footage seems to show that the officers were justified in using lethal force as Wallace approached them while carrying a knife. There does not appear to be any other action the officers could have taken at that point.
Johnson’s argument that the officers were not equipped to handle this type of situation echoes that of others who have noted that police typically do not have extensive training in dealing with cases involving mental illness. Some have suggested more training or the recruitment of mental health professionals who can help defuse these situations before it escalates to the point that an officer is forced to use their firearms.
It’s a point worth considering. What if the officers or another individual were able to calm Wallace down before he even pulled the knife? It makes sense that law enforcement would look for other ways to decrease the number of fatal encounters with police rather than throwing up their hands and maintaining the status quo. Perhaps if there are people who actually take these issues seriously, they can work towards solutions rather than just playing politics.
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