Philadelphia police to release footage in fatal shooting of Walter Wallace

Northeast

PHILADELPHIA (NewsNation Now) — After several nights of unrest over the Philadelphia police killing of a 27-year-old Black man, the city’s police commissioner has promised to release body camera footage and audio of 911 calls in the death of Walter Wallace Jr.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw pledged to release the evidence “in the near future,” after the department shares it with Wallace’s family.

Officers fatally shot Wallace on Monday after he ignored orders to drop a knife, according to police. Wallace’s mother said she warned police Monday afternoon that her son was in the throes of a mental health crisis. Catherine Wallace said officers knew he was experiencing such a crisis because they had been to the family’s home three times that day.

The family’s attorney, Shaka Johnson, said Wallace’s brother had called 911 to request medical assistance and an ambulance.

Wallace’s death prompted protests in several cities across the country, and Philadelphia was placed under an overnight curfew after nights of looting and clashes with police in riot gear. Since the police shooting, more than 90 people have been arrested and about 50 officers have been injured in confrontations with protesters and vandals, including the roughly 1,000 who broke windows and stole merchandise at a shopping center Tuesday night. 

Protesters confront police during a march Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020 in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a disaster emergency proclamation Wednesday to provide additional support in Philadelphia after days of unrest. The Pennsylvania National Guard has also been sent to the city, NewsNation affiliate WHTM reported. The first troops were expected Friday and Saturday.

“Over the last few days, hundreds of people have gathered to peacefully speak out against social injustice, but their voices are being drowned out by others who are taking advantage of this fragile time in their city to sow mayhem and discord,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement.

Philadelphia’s police commissioner acknowledged Wednesday that her department lacks a mental health unit or consistent way to coordinate police calls with specialists.

“We don’t have a behavioral health unit, which is sorely needed,” Outlaw said.

Wallace’s wife, Dominique, is pregnant and was scheduled to be induced Wednesday, according to the family’s attorney. Johnson said Wallace had nine children, two of whom briefly spoke at a news conference late Tuesday, along with Wallace’s mother and father.

“When you come to a scene where somebody is in a mental crisis, and the only tool you have to deal with it is a gun … where are the proper tools for the job?” Johnson said, arguing that Philadelphia police officers are not properly trained to handle mental health crises.

Police officials said they could not confirm what information had been given to the responding officers, whether they were told about a possible mental illness or how many calls they had received for help at Wallace’s address Monday.

Philadelphia police officers form a line during a demonstration in Philadelphia, late Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Outlaw said earlier the officers involved in the shooting were taken off street duty as they investigate. She said the officers’ names and other identifying information, including their race, would be withheld until the department could be sure releasing the information would not pose a threat to their safety.

Neither had a Taser or similar device at the time of the shooting, Outlaw said, noting the department had previously asked for funding to equip more officers with those devices.

The two officers each fired at least seven rounds — at least 14 total shots — but police could not say how many times Wallace was struck.

On Thursday, William McSwain, the U.S. attorney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, plans to announce criminal charges stemming from the violent unrest in the city. McSwain and law enforcement officials will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. EDT.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WHTM contributed to this report.

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