As two Philadelphia police officers screamed for Walter Wallace Jr. to put a knife down, a woman is heard yelling repeatedly that the 27-year-old man was “mental,” according to video from cameras worn by the officers that was released Wednesday.
Wallace, a Black man, was shot and killed by police while holding a knife last week during a confrontation in West Philadelphia.
His family said he had bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a mental health crisis at the time.
The first bodycam video shows the view from the perspective of one of the officers as he arrives at Wallace’s home, who emerges from the front door holding what appears to be a knife. The officer is heard saying “put the knife down now” multiple times.
A woman is heard in the background saying that Wallace is “mental” as he is seen walking down the steps of his home carrying a knife.
The officer is then heard saying “back up” as Wallace walks towards the street. Shots are then fired, and Wallace is seen falling to the ground on the left side of the screen.
Wallace’s mother then runs to her son’s body and begins to yell repeatedly at the officers “you murdered him.”
A woman is then heard in the video saying: “I told you he was mental.”
In the second officer’s bodycam footage, Wallace is seen approaching with the knife while in the street, and an officer is heard saying, “Shoot him.”
Shots are then fired, and Wallace falls to the ground. In a chaotic scene, an officer is then heard saying to the people surrounding Wallace, “We have to get him to the hospital.”
At this point, one of the officers is heard saying “he was f**king chasing us.”
The officer in the second video then instructs the other officer to get their police car and that they will “scoop him.” The other officer then runs to a police car and drives closer to the scene.
The footage was released today by the Philadelphia Police Department and District Attorney’s Office. This was in accord with an agreement reached last week with the Wallace family to release the video by the close of business Wednesday.
The Philadelphia PD says that the duration of the video is in accordance with what the Wallace family approved to be released.
The investigation is still ongoing, and no charges have been filed against the officers.
A lawyer for the Wallace family said last week that they do not want the officers charged with murder, saying that they were improperly trained and did not have the proper equipment to do their job.
A statement from the Philadelphia police union said the officers followed their training and department policy.
“These officers followed their training and police department policy. It’s completely inappropriate that these officers continue to be vilified for doing their job,” the statement says.
Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters at a news conference the videos would be painful for a city that has seen recent protests and looting.
“We understand that the materials released today will be very painful, it will elicit anger, rage, distress, and will elicit more questions and rightfully so,” Kenney said.
The shooting and the moments that immediately preceded it also were recorded by a bystander with a cell phone. That video shows Wallace approach the officers with a knife as the officers draw their guns and order Wallace to drop his weapon. The officers, who did not have Tasers, then fatally shoot Wallace, the bystander video shows.
The shooting led to demonstrations in Philadelphia as well as incidents of looting, property destruction and attacks on police officers. To combat the unrest, the city established a curfew for several days last week.
The mayor urged residents to refrain from further violence after the release of the video. He said the release was a crucial moment but not the final step in the addressing of racial tensions.
“Seeing another life lost yet again to police violence can make many of us question if anything has changed or if anything will ever change, but this is why we are releasing this footage because things have to change and they are changing,” Kenney said.
The 911 calls that led to officers being sent to the home were also released.
Additional crisis training planned
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw also announced the department will have 911 call-takers and dispatchers eventually take more crisis intervention team (CIT) training.
The training class will provide workers at the 911 center with a “better ability to identify crisis related calls so that these calls are more efficiently directed to CIT-trained officers in the field.”
The training should be complete by next fall, she said.
Another step will be to include crisis counselors in an active role in the radio room where call-takers speak to 911 callers, Outlaw said. Officers would also be able to call for assistance with concerns from the field, she said.
Attorney: Wallace was in a mental health crisis
In a news conference last week, family attorney Shaka Johnson said the body camera footage shows Wallace in an “obvious mental health crisis.”
“It seems to be a person in sort of a cloud or a stupor or just not appreciating the gravity of that particular moment, which would align perfectly with what the family was shouting, ‘he’s mental, he’s mental,’” he said. “He was behaving like a person who didn’t appreciate the gravity of the circumstances.”
Johnson also said that the family was not calling for the officers to be criminally charged with murder. He instead criticized the city for failing to provide the officers with less-lethal weapons, such as a Taser.
“And here’s why, here’s why: They were improperly trained and did not have the proper equipment by which to effectuate their job,” Johnson said.
Johnson told reporters he has been in touch with District Attorney Larry Krasner and that office is reviewing whether the officers will be charged with any crimes related to the shooting.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said the union’s review of the footage and audio showed officers retreated for “nearly 50 seconds” and ordered Wallace to drop his knife “more than 20 times” before shooting.
CNN’s Brynn Gingras contributed to this report.