Philadelphia police announces reforms in response to the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.

Protesters and police in riot gear come face to face during unrest in Philadelphia Tuesday night. Joshua Lott/The Washington Post
  • The Philadelphia Police Department will take a number of steps to train officers to respond better to situations involving mental health crises after the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man killed by police in late October.
  • Two officers fired at and killed Wallace late last month. Wallace had been walking toward the officers with a knife and refused to put it down, police said.
  • Wallace’s parents said their son was having a mental-health crisis.
  • Bodycam footage of the interaction between Philadelphia police officers and Wallace was released on Wednesday.
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Philadelphia officials on Wednesday revealed reforms to the police department in response to the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. last month.

Wallace was a 27-year-old Black man shot dead by two police officers, who fired more than a dozen rounds at him. Police said Wallace had been walking toward them with a knife and did not obey orders to put it down.

Officials released bodycam footage of the killing and 911 calls on Wednesday.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said there will be a number of reforms in response to the incident. All officers, for example, will undergo a training in crisis intervention by fall of 2021, Outlaw said.

The police department will also implement “a decision tree or a set of questions” geared “to help us identify those in crisis if they don’t offer that information to us voluntarily,” she said.

Wallace’s. mum, Cathy, who had witnessed the shooting, tried to de-escalate the police response. In the moments leading up to the shooting, Cathy was asking the officers not to shoot her son, video footage from bystanders shows.

“I was telling the police to stop,” Catchy told reporters. “They paid me no mind and they just shot him.”

Wallace’s parents said last week that he was dealing with a mental-health issue. They accused officers of deliberately ignoring that.

Speaking at a news conference, Cathy said officers came to her house three times the day of Wallace’s killing and “stood there and laughed at us.”

The police department will also work more closely with the Department of Behavioural Health and Intellectual Disability Services to train officers on responding to mental-health crises, officials said Wednesday at a press conference.

Protests broke out in Philadelphia after news of Wallace’s death.

Video of the incident posted to social media shows Wallace maintaining what appears to have been a sizable distance between him and the two officers when police shot at him multiple times.

“Oh my god,” a man on the video said. “They just killed him in front of me. You didn’t have to give him that many shots.”

Last Friday, Philadelphia officials said in a statement that its citizens “are experiencing an immense amount of pain, and significant unrest persists throughout the entire city.”

“The collective hope of our local government and the Wallace family is that releasing the recordings on November 4 will provide enough time to calm tensions and for the recordings to be released in the most constructive manner possible,” the statement read.

The investigation is ongoing.

“I ask for your patience while we complete the officer-involved investigation,” Outlaw said. “We will conduct this investigation as quickly as possible. However, I don’t have an exact timeline.”