Officials in Philadelphia called for calm on Wednesday when they released footage of two policemen shooting and killing a black man with a history of mental illness holding a knife. Police also announced new training measures to help officers deal with mental health crises.
The man, Walter Wallace Jr., 27, was shot dead by officers on October 26 in an encounter who was also videoed and shared on social media by an outsider.
In videos of bystanders and in police body-cam footage, Mr. Wallace was found walking in the direction of the officers who stepped back and pointed guns at him. The police repeatedly yelled at Mr. Wallace to “put the knife down”; and then fired several times. After Wallace fell to the ground, his mother shouted and rushed into his body.
In the body-cam scene, a woman can be heard repeatedly yelling that Mr. Wallace was “mentally ill” when the police pointed guns at him.
The shooting caused protests and looting in the city, prompting Governor Tom Wolf to call on the National Guard and the city to order a 9pm curfew, which expired last week.
Days later, more than 200 people were arrested, cars burned and more than 50 officers were injured, increasing tensions in a country that was ready before Election Day.
The White House blamed “the war of the liberal Democrats against the police” as the cause of the devastation, while former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Sen. Kamala Harris mourned Mr. Wallace’s death, condemned the plunder and accused Mr Trump of admiring “the flame of our social divisions.”
At a news conference Wednesday, the mayor, county attorney and Philadelphia police commissioner joined black clergy members to express grief and mourning over Wallace’s death. They urged people not to resort to violence in response to body-cam footage, as well as 911 calls and police broadcasts that were broadcast.
Mayor Jim Kenney said: “We know this moment is extremely painful, going through many generations of failures to protect all residents of Philadelphia, especially black or brown people.
“Very painful” videos, he says, will arouse anger, rage, pain, raise more questions – and yes. “
Larry Krasner, district attorney, called the shooting “a terrible tragedy” and said it showed the police were not responding properly to a suffering mother about the mental health crisis of her son.
“The government failed because her son was killed within a minute of the government’s arrival,” he said. “As part of the government, I apologize for that.”
However, Mr. Krasner said that if people want to honor Mr. Wallace and respect his family’s wishes, they should not “disgrace his memory by tearing the city apart.”
Mary Floyd Palmer, one of the missionaries who spoke at the press conference, said that Mr. Wallace “should be here today.” She said the people of Philadelphia should show compassion and concern for his death.
“God is watching,” she said. “So are our children. What will they say about what you did? “
On Wednesday, about 300 people gathered outside City Hall to protest the murder. They stood in front of a banner that read Count All Votes, near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where city officials were tallying the ballots in the presidential election.
As the helicopter flew overhead, about two dozen National Guard soldiers stood with Philadelphia police officers.
City officials said the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office are continuing to investigate the shooting.
Officers were identified on Wednesday as Sean Matarazzo, 25, who has been with the department since 2018 and Thomas Munz, 26, who has been in the force since 2017. The Police Department said both The police have been placed on “limited duty” while the investigation continues.
John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge # 5, which represents the city’s officers, said it has been calling for the release of the video and 911 calls since last Tuesday.
“Eight days later, city officials held an hour-long press conference blaming these officers for the incident that they were forced to make decisions in a snap,” Mr. McNesby said. “This is baseless and is not supported by the truth.”
He said the officers followed their department and training policies.
“Mayor Kenney called this ‘police violence’,” said Mr McNesby. “However, the real violence was caused by a man holding a knife in confrontation with our police officers.”
City officials say they are expanding programs to help police defuse mental health crises without the need for violence.
Next week, officials said, 911 call recipients and dispatchers will be trained to better identify calls related to people in crisis, so they can dispatch officers. have special training.
Specially trained officers will answer such calls in January alongside civil mental health specialists, officials said.
“We firmly believe that mental illness, disability and substance use disorder are not crimes,” said Jill Bowen, acting commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. “Those affected by these challenges have the right to treatment, recovery, and wellness and life.”
Jon Hurdle contributed to the report.