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Philadelphia police release 911 calls, body camera video in fatal shooting of Walter Wallace

It is the first time the department has publicly released body-worn video from an officer-involved shooting, the commissioner said.
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Body camera video released Wednesday by Philadelphia police shows the moments leading to the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. and its emotional aftermath.

Wallace, 27, was shot Oct. 26 after officers responded to a call about a man armed with a knife, police said at the time. Wallace's family has previously said that he struggled with mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, and that they called 911 to request an ambulance in the hope that he would receive medical intervention.

At a news conference Wednesday ahead of the release of body camera video and 911 call audio, city officials warned that the materials were disturbing and said the family had been consulted before its release.

"The video footage contains graphic and violent images and may be intense and traumatic for some to watch," Mayor Jim Kenney said. "But greater transparency ... is necessary in making meaningful changes in our city and to keep our offices, institutions and departments accountable."

IMAGE: Walter Wallace Jr.
Walter Wallace Jr.Courtesy Carnell Hurley

Both the audio and the video released Wednesday were edited by the Philadelphia Police Department and approved by the Wallace family.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said it was the first time the department had publicly released body-worn video from an officer-involved shooting. She also announced planned reforms in regard to mental health calls, in partnership with the city's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

The reforms include expanded crisis intervention training for 911 dispatchers and de-escalation training for officers, officials said. The department is also working to expand the availability of Taser stun devices, which the officers who responded to the Wallace call did not have.

The officers ordered Wallace "several times" to drop the knife, but he continued to "advance towards" them, police said last month. They then fired "multiple times," shooting him in the chest and a shoulder, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital just after 4 p.m., police said.

Police released audio Wednesday of three 911 calls — from a neighbor, Wallace's sister and an unidentified man — made around 3:45 p.m. Oct. 26. The neighbor asks for police assistance, saying a man next door was fighting with his mother.

The second call begins with Wallace's sister asking for police, stating that her mother and her father were being hit by her brother. The dispatcher asks whether her brother has a weapon.

"No, but he's on probation and everything," the woman says. "He got a case for being violent and everything. He got a whole record."

When asked whether she needed an ambulance, the woman says that her mother's blood pressure was up and that her father felt faint. In the audio released by police, there is no mention of whether Wallace has a mental illness.

In the third 911 call, it sounds as if a man asks for help for his mother, but with other chatter and arguments in the background.

The body camera video picks up outside a residence and appears to show Wallace leaving with something in his hand. It is unclear what happened before the video began.

An officer yells for Wallace to "put the knife down now."

"No, no, he's mental," a woman screams.

Wallace begins to walk around the street holding what appears to be a knife. Officers are on opposite sides of the block, based on the angles from their cameras. Wallace's mother runs into the street to try to grab her son, but he brushes her aside.

Another man also tries to stop Wallace as officers demand that he "put the knife down." Wallace is alone in the street when officers begin to fire and he falls to the ground.

At one point in the video, a man can be heard saying, "Shoot him."

After Wallace falls, his mother rushes to him, yells at officers and appears to throw something at them.

"You killed my son," she shouts.

Another woman yells at officers that she had told them that "he was mental."

Two people move to care for Wallace, and an officer leaves after his partner tells him to bring a patrol car around to place Wallace inside and rush him to the hospital. The video ends there.

An attorney for the Wallace family was not immediately available for comment Wednesday evening.

Wallace's death sparked days of heated protest in Philadelphia, with members of the state's National Guard deployed and a curfew imposed to deter violence and looting.

The Philadelphia district attorney's Special Investigations Unit and the Philadelphia Police Department's Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Unit are looking into Wallace's shooting. The officers, identified Wednesday as Sean Matterazzo and Thomas Munz, have been provided representation by their union.

The officers have been assigned to restrictive duty pending the investigation, the department said.

John McNesby, president of Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5, said the union has called for the release of video and the audio since the day after the shooting. He defended the officers, who he said are being "vilified for doing their job."

"Eight days later, city officials held an hourlong press conference casting blame on these officers for this incident in which they were forced to make a split-second decision," McNesby said. "This is baseless and not supported by facts."