Attorney Shaka Johnson called for every officer in the Philadelphia Police Department to be equipped with Tasers.
PHILADELPHIA — On the same day Walter Wallace Jr.’s family made his funeral arrangements, they got police body camera footage of his final, fatal interaction with police.
The footage, which has not yet been publicly released, shows a young Black man in “a cloud,” said Shaka Johnson, an attorney for the family.
“You will not see a man with a knife lunging at anyone that would qualify as a reason to assassinate him in front of his family—that, you will not see,” Johnson said at a news conference on Thursday.
“What you will see is a person with at least a car-length-and-a-half distance away from officers. You will see a person walking around, not even speaking. You would think that someone who could appreciate what was going on would at least be talking and saying something.”
Rather than noticing that something was wrong with the 27-year-old Wallace or heeding the words of family members who were shouting “he’s mental,” Johnson said, officers pulled their guns.
“What you will hear from one of the officers is ‘shoot him,’” Johnson said.
“What other than death did you intend when you shoot a man, each officer, seven times apiece?”
RELATED: Walter Wallace Jr.’s Parents Called for Medical Help. Police Showed Up Instead and Killed Him.
Johnson said Wallace’s family does not want the officers who shot and killed their loved one to be charged with murder because they lacked proper training for handling their encounter with Wallace.
Instead, he called for additional training for Philadelphia police—”specifically on keeping people alive.”
“Do not cause their death at your own hands,” Johnson said. “I’m not suggesting that there aren’t times when lethal force, deadly force has to be used. I’m not suggesting that. This right here, Walter Wallace, this was not one of those times.”
Johnson’s call for more police training came after several days of protests in Philadelphia—and several other cities—over Wallace’s death.
Those protests followed a summer when Philadelphians protested police brutality daily for five straight weeks after the death of George Floyd.
Community leaders in the city, which has a long history of police racism and brutality, have been calling on city officials to reform the police department since before the protests in May, June, and July. Many thought appointing a Black woman to the Philadelphia Police Department’s top administrative post would help, and Mayor Jim Kenney hired Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, a Black woman, earlier this year.
Police Department Requests $14M for Tasers
While Philadelphia Police Department policy says officers should “use only the minimal amount of force necessary to overcome an immediate threat or to effectuate an arrest,” only one-third of the officers have been trained to use Tasers.
Neither of the officers who shot Walter Wallace Jr. on Monday was carrying a Taser.
Johnson said the Wallace family wants every officer in the city to have a Taser.
“No one else who is suffering from a mental health crisis should be met by ill-trained, ill-prepared and ill-equipped police officers,” he said.
The Philadelphia Police Department has requested $14 million in new funds over five years so it can buy Tasers.
“The conversation today is to ensure that every officer who’s working in operations has a Taser,” Outlaw said during a news conference on Wednesday. “That would require around 4,400 to 4,500 Tasers. Right now we’re at about 2,300. The amount, $900,000, really only gives us a couple hundred Tasers a year.”
Council President Darrell Clarke said in a news conference that he supports Outlaw’s proposal.
“We are prepared to fund that five-year plan, and if they want to accelerate that plan, they simply have to ask for additional revenue,” Clarke said.
But former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was surprised that officers don’t already have Tasers and the necessary training to use them.
Ramsey told The Philadelphia Inquirer Thursday that when he left the department in January 2016, it had a four-year plan to equip all uniformed patrol officers—about 4,500—with Tasers. There were also talks about equipping plainclothes officers with Tasers.
“We were getting them and cranking them out,” Ramsey told the Inquirer. “The goal was to get everyone equipped with their own Tasers.”
He said he didn’t know why the department, which first started using Tasers in 2008, didn’t stick to the plan.
The city currently has an ongoing $12.5 million contract with Axon, the company that makes Tasers, to buy body cameras.
Tasers are not always the solution people expect them to be. They malfunction or fail to subdue a subject about 45% of the time, according to an analysis by APM Reports.
Still, the police department has a responsibility to “elongate the force continuum so the officers have as many options as possible before they use deadly force,” Hans Menos, former executive director of the city’s police advisory commission and incoming vice president of law enforcement initiatives at the Center for Policing Equity, told the Inquirer.
“I don’t believe that any officer wants to use deadly force,” Menos said. “It’s traumatizing.”
City Council Moves to Ban Use of Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets
Earlier Thursday, Philadelphia City Council voted 14-3 to approve legislation that would prohibit the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray on peaceful protesters.
Outlaw told Council that she supports the goal of the bill.
Mayor Jim Kenney also supports the ban in principle but wants to review it before signing it into law, a spokesman told The Associated Press.
If Kenney signs the bill, Philadelphia will be among the first cities in the US to ban the use of tear gas against protesters.
Tear gas is banned in warfare by the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Yet police in at least 100 cities, including Philadelphia, used tear gas on protesters over the summer. Only a handful of those cities have moved to ban the chemical weapon. After one city, Seattle, banned the use of tear gas, a federal judge blocked the ban.
In Philadelphia, police used rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters on residential streets in West Philadelphia and on I-676 in Center City.
Outlaw and Kenney initially defended the use of tear gas, but changed course after The New York Times reported on the incident on I-676. Outlaw and Kenney then admitted the use of tear gas on I-676 was wrong, and prohibited officers from using it.
More than 140 residents and protesters have since sued the city over the police use of tear gas on protesters.
The mayor also has signed a law prohibiting police from using chokeholds or other restraints that can cause asphyxiation.