Nov 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Philadelphia police release body camera footage of Walter Wallace shooting

A Black Lives Matter flag hangs above a group of people walking in the street at night, with a city building behind them

Demonstrators in two combined marches — one in response to the 2020 presidential election and the other in response to footage of Wallace's shooting — in Philadelphia on Nov. 4. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Philadelphia officials on Wednesday released body camera footage — which Mayor Jim Kenney described as "traumatic" and graphic" — of police fatally shooting Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, late last month.

What happened: The video of the roughly 40-second-long incident on Oct. 26 shows Wallace walking toward the officers, who repeatedly command him to drop the knife he is holding, before 14 shots were fired.

  • Wallace's death sparked unrest in the city, prompting days of citywide curfews in an attempt to quell protests and looting.
  • Protestors gathered peacefully in Philadelphia's Center City on Wednesday after the footage was released — in a dual march to also call for the city's vote to be properly counted, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Wallace's family members said last week that he was experiencing a mental health crisis when they called 911 for an ambulance, but the released 911 tapes feature calls from Wallace's sister, next-door neighbor and an unnamed man — and do not include a request for a non-police response.

  • The operator on the call with Wallace's sister did attempt to connect her to medics, but she hung up before the transfer was completed. The operator did still ask that an ambulance be sent to Wallace's address.
  • The Inquirer reported that it could not reach Wallace's family members or their family attorney to comment on the calls or to confirm whether a call that requested a non-police response was not included in the release.

What they're saying: "We understand that the materials we release today will be very painful. It will elicit anger, rage, distress, evoke more questions, and rightfully so. The video footage contains graphic and violent images and may be intense and traumatic for some to watch," Kenney said.

  • “Somebody, somewhere down the chain of command wasn’t on point. I’m not saying the officers did it intentionally. We just want to know if this incident could’ve been prevented. You can’t just give someone a gun and a badge and tell them to go out there and deal with the public. You’re gonna panic if you’re not taught to deal with that situation," Wallace's father told the Washington Post.
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