Philadelphia Settles Lawsuit in Fatal Police Shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.
The city agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to the family of Mr. Wallace, a Black man with a history of mental illness who was shot by officers last year while holding a knife.,
The city of Philadelphia has agreed to settle a wrongful-death suit filed by the family of a Black man whose fatal shooting by the police last year was recorded on video and prompted widespread protests.
The man, Walter Wallace Jr., 27, had mental health issues and was holding a knife when he was shot by two Philadelphia police officers on Oct. 26, 2020.
The settlement between the city and Mr. Wallace’s family was finalized this week, according to Kevin Lessard, a city spokesman, who said the city was not releasing the figure “without a Right to Know request due to a direct request from attorneys representing the family.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the city agreed to pay the family $2.5 million.
During a news conference on Thursday, Shaka Johnson, a lawyer representing the Wallace family, said the agreement included a demand from the family that the city provided all patrol officers with stun guns. Mr. Johnson could not immediately be reached on Friday.
A city spokeswoman said on Friday that, in response to Mr. Wallace’s death, the city planned to equip and train all uniformed police officers with Tasers. The city this year budgeted $13.9 million to pay for the Tasers.
“In addition, Mr. Wallace Jr.’s death emphasized the urgent need for additional support for those with behavioral health challenges and their families,” Mr. Lessard said, adding that the city “can and will do better to address Philadelphia’s inequities in our criminal justice and health systems.”
On the afternoon of Oct. 26, 2020, police officers responded to a report of a man armed with a knife. Video footage of part of the encounter that circulated on social media showed Mr. Wallace holding a knife and walking toward the officers, who quickly moved backward and aimed their guns at him.
In the video, someone repeatedly yells at Mr. Wallace to “put the knife down,” after which about a dozen shots are heard. After Mr. Wallace fell to the ground, his mother screamed and rushed to his body.
At the time, a lawyer for the family said that Mr. Wallace was experiencing a crisis that day and that the family had told officers about it when they arrived at the scene.
Mr. Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., said his son had a history with mental illness and was on medication, according to The Inquirer.
“Why didn’t they use a Taser?” the father had said. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.”
The shooting, which came five months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, led to several days of marches, looting and violent clashes with the police in Philadelphia. The unrest prompted Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania to call in the National Guard, and the city to order a 9 p.m. curfew. It also became a talking point during the 2020 presidential campaign.
During a four-day period, at least 57 officers were injured during confrontations with protesters, and 212 people were arrested on charges including assault on police officers and burglary, the authorities said.
On Nov. 4, Philadelphia officials urged residents not to respond with violence as the city released graphic body-cam footage, as well as 911 calls and police radio transmissions from the encounter on Oct. 26.
In a statement on Friday, Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia said, “I hope that this settlement brings some measure of closure for the family.”
He said that in the past year the city had worked “across institutions, departments, community leaders and organizations to enact meaningful reforms, reimagine public safety and advance racial justice.”
“While our work is not done, we remain strongly committed to these goals and to making our city the best, fairest and most equitable that it can be,” Mr. Kenney said.