kali9/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON and JOSH HOYOS, ABC News
(PHILADELPHIA) — Two Philadelphia police officers fired 14 times killing a knife-wielding Black man whose family said he was in the throes of a mental health crisis.
The confrontation that cost 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. his life on Monday afternoon set off protests that devolved into rioting, looting and led to 30 cops being injured and 91 people being arrested, officials said.
City Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw declined to say at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon how many times Wallace was hit by the barrage of bullets fired at him when he allegedly refused to put down a knife and appeared to charge at the officers.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said each officer fired seven rounds.
The shooting came as Wallace’s pregnant wife is preparing to have labor induced on Wednesday, the family’s lawyers, Shaka Johnson and Kevin O’Brien, told reporters from the steps of the Wallace family home on Tuesday.
The shooting unfolded shortly before 4 p.m. on Monday on a street in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia. Witnesses and community activists have questioned why the police officers immediately resorted to deadly force instead of taking less-lethal action such as deploying stun guns.
Outlaw said the two officers involved in the shooting, whose names have not been released, were not equipped with stun guns due to the department’s limited resources.
“We have to adapt our training,” Outlaw said.
After viewing a video of the shooting, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the incident “presents difficult questions that must be answered.”
The incident began when police responded to a radio call involving a person with a weapon and encountered Wallace on a residential street brandishing a knife and waving it erratically, police officials said.
Officers ordered the man to drop the knife, then fired when he followed them with the weapon, police said.
A video posted to social media appeared to show the man, later identified by officials as Wallace, circling around a parked car and walking toward officers as they backed away from him, shouting, “Put the knife down!”
Outlaw also would not confirm on Tuesday that the initial call was a mental health call. She also refused to say whether officers had responded to Wallace’s residence on Sunday or Monday prior to the shooting.
Kenney said he spoke with Wallace’s wife and parents Tuesday night and promised to continue to reach out to them. He added that he has confidence in the investigation.
Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his son appeared to have been shot 10 times in the episode. The father was among those who questioned why police immediately resorted to deadly force.
He said his son’s mother was trying to defuse the situation when police opened fire.
The senior Wallace told the newspaper that his son was on medication for mental health issues.
“He has mental health issues. Why you have to gun him down?” the father said.
Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the Wallace family, said the initial 911 call was for an ambulance for Wallace, and that police were not requested in the call.
Johnson said Wallace was on a regime of lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorder.
“The folks who called the authorities didn’t deem the police necessary, which is why they called and specifically requested for an ambulance,” Johnson said.
Johnson claimed the dispatcher who took the call announced over the radio that it was call for a medical crisis.
Outlaw said she was committing to a 48- to 72-hour timeline to announce if she would release the names of the officers, body-worn camera footage or other pieces of evidence. She is scheduled to participate in a community meeting Tuesday night.
Large protests erupted across the city following Wallace’s death. The protests escalated into looting, rioting and numerous assaults on police officers, officials said.
At least 30 police officers were injured during the violence, including one, a sergeant, who was struck by a pickup truck and was hospitalized with a broken leg, officials said.
In total, 29 other officers were treated and released for their injuries at various hospitals and police officials said most of the injuries were the result of being struck by bricks, rocks, fireworks and other debris hurled at the officers.
“This completely caught us off guard. … Once we arrived there, we knew there would be civil unrest,” Outlaw said.
At least 91 people were arrested in protests overnight, including 11 for allegedly assaulting police officers and 76 on burglary charges, police said. Three people arrested were allegedly in possession of guns, officials said.
Officials said that eight police cruisers were damaged during the violence, including one that was set on fire. The windshield of a medical unit was also smashed.
“Last night, we saw anguish of Black and brown residents,” Kenney said, but added, “looting is not protest; vandalism is not protest.”
Outlaw said the police department is planning to beef up its presence in key areas of the city on Tuesday night and has requested mutual aid from surrounding counties and state agencies ahead of more civil unrest anticipated in the community.
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, offered the resources of his agency to help quell the violence in Philadelphia.
“This violence towards police officers is an unacceptable threat to the rule of law, our national security, and our way of life,” Wolf said in a statement posted on Twitter. “It cannot and will not stand.”
It is unclear if Kenney and other city leaders have agreed to accept the federal government’s help.
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