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