The family of Walter Wallace Jr. seeks to convince Philadelphia to divert money toward mental health service from the police budget
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The family of Walter Wallace Jr. called Friday for the officers who fatally shot the young Black man to be fired and asked that some of the city’s more than $700 million police budget be diverted to mental health services.
However, on the eve of his funeral, they said they won’t press for the two relatively junior officers who opened fire to be charged in the death. The family will instead accept the decision made by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Lawyer Shaka Johnson spoke for the family at a City Hall news conference a day before Saturday’s planned funeral for Wallace, a 27-year-old father of nine who had been receiving mental health services.
Both city officials and the family agree he was killed less than a minute after police arrived at the address for a third time on Oct. 26. The Fraternal Order of Police — the union for police officers — said the officers did nothing wrong as Wallace ignored repeated commands to drop a knife during the encounter outside the family home. Both officers are in their mid-20s, with a few years on the force.
Johnson called for the city to divert some of its police budget to a separate hotline that families could call to get trained professionals, instead of armed officers, to respond to mental health crises.
He also noted that city voters in Tuesday’s election approved a ballot measure to create a citizen oversight panel for the police department. Police reform activist Gwen Carr, whose son Eric Garner was killed during a 2014 police chokehold in New York, echoed the call for change.
“You never hear of a black police officer going into Scarsdale shooting down a mentally ill person,” Carr said at the news conference, referring to a suburban New York city. “That is unheard of.”
Johnson also called for the city to follow 2015 Justice Department recommendations and issue all patrol officers Tasers so they have other ways to assert control in similar situations.
The family plans to file suit against the city, Johnson said. They endorsed the city’s decision to release the police body camera video and tapes of the 911 calls earlier this week, and joined officials at a news conference Wednesday, when Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw promised reforms.
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