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Philly Pledges Better Shooting Response10/29 06:37


   PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Philadelphia police pledged to release 911 tapes and 
police body camera footage "in the near future" in the shooting death of a 
Black man with a history of mental health problems, a death that prompted 
protests, widespread vandalism and an overnight curfew days before Election Day.

   Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw pledged to release the video evidence 
once the department shares it with the family of Walter Wallace Jr. Outlaw, who 
came to Philadelphia less than a year ago from Portland, Oregon, lamented at a 
news conference 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," said 
Outlaw, when asked about reports that police had been called to the home twice 
before that day. "There's clearly a disconnect on our end in terms of knowing 
what's out there " at the scene.

   Police say they fatally shot Wallace on Monday after he ignored orders to 
drop a knife, a death that intensified already heightened tensions in the 
presidential battleground state. Wallace's mother said she warned police Monday 
afternoon that her son was in the throes of a mental health crisis.

   In the days since, more than 90 people have been arrested and about 50 
police officers injured in clashes with protesters and vandals, including the 
1,000 or so who suddenly swarmed a shopping center Tuesday night, breaking 
windows and stealing merchandise. That scene erupted on the other side of the 
city, miles from Wallace' neighborhood, where protests were underway.

   "We had zero information to warn us of this," Deputy Commissioner Melvin 
Singleton said. "By that time ... the damage was done."

   The clashes come as Pennsylvania emerges as a key focus of the contentious 
2020 election, with President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, 
a native son, locked in a battle for the state's 20 electoral votes. Both 
candidates have made frequent campaign stops in the state.

   More than 9 million Pennsylvanians have registered to vote, and many in 
Philadelphia waited in line for hours this week to request a mail-in ballot by 
Tuesday's deadline, as news of the police shooting spread.

   City officials announced Wednesday they would enact a curfew in the city 
from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., as business owners cleaned up damage from the melee 
and boarded up windows.

   Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters the Pennsylvania National Guard would also 
be deployed to help protect property and assist the police. The first troops 
were expected Friday and Saturday.

   The unrest started Monday evening, shortly after Wallace, 27, was killed, 
and set off protests elsewhere, including in Washington, D.C., the Brooklyn 
borough of New York City and Portland, where demonstrators held their hands in 
the shape of a "W" in his honor.

   His family's lawyer said the family had called for an ambulance to get him 
help with a mental health crisis.

   Wallace's wife, Dominique, is pregnant and was scheduled to be induced 
Wednesday, according to the family's attorney, Shaka Johnson. 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 

   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.

   Wallace's father, Walter Wallace Sr. said Tuesday night that he is haunted 
by the way his son was "butchered."

   "It's in my mind. I can't even sleep at night. I can't even close my eyes," 
he said.

   In video filmed by a bystander and posted on social media, officers could be 
seen yelling for Wallace to drop a knife. In the video, Wallace's mother and at 
least one man followed Wallace, trying to get him to listen to officers, as he 
briskly walked across the street and between cars.

   Wallace advanced toward the officers, who then fired several times, said 
police spokesperson Officer Tanya Little. Wallace's mother could be seen 
screaming and throwing something at an officer after her son was shot and fell 
to the ground.

   The video does not make it clear whether he was in fact holding a knife, but 
witnesses said he was.

   Wallace was hit in the shoulder and chest, Little said. One officer drove 
him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later, she said.

   Lawyer Robert Trimble represented Wallace in a 2016 robbery case that led 
him to spend about a year in jail. His sentence, according to court records, 
included mental health supervision and six years of probation.

   "I ran into him about a year ago by City Hall. He stopped me on the street 
and thanked me for helping him," Trimble said. "I remember him being a decent 

   In March, Wallace was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats, 
according to court records. A status hearing was scheduled for Dec. 2.

   Both Outlaw and the mayor pledged to address the lack of coordinated mental 
health services.

   "We have limited resources and we have a large number of people with 
problems," Kenney said. "We need to do a better job."

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