A family called the police on a man, demanding that the officers “do something” to stop him from attacking his parents. However, after the police were forced to shoot the armed suspect, the same family filed a massive lawsuit.
Philadelphia police rushed to the 6100-block of Locust Street after receiving reports of a domestic dispute that had turned violent. According to dispatch recordings, both a neighbor and sister of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. made separate calls to 911, asking for an ambulance for the parents and for the police to “do something.”
“He’s over here hitting my mother and father,” the sister said, adding that the police had responded to the residence once before but had done nothing to stop him. Although she didn’t think her brother was armed, she explained that “he’s on probation and everything. He got a case for being violent and everything. He got a whole record.”
When officers arrived at the door, Wallace appeared with a knife in hand. The man immediately headed toward the police, refusing at least 11 orders to drop the knife, as officers repeatedly retreated with their guns drawn. Finally, Wallace came too close for comfort.
The officers fired at least 7 rounds each, hitting Wallace and instantly taking him down. Bodycam footage shows the suspect’s mother hysterically wailing and throwing her cellphone at officers before assaulting them several times for shooting her son. She continues to scream, prompting neighbors to flock outside. Officers rushed Wallace to the hospital in an attempt to save his life, but he was later pronounced dead at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
The family told the media that they had called 911 for mental health assistance, which sparked violent riots across the city. However, the audio recordings of these calls were released, showing that this wasn’t true. Still, this didn’t stop the family from pursuing legal action.
“White racist cops got my own dad,” one of Wallace’s sons said before adding, “And black lives still matter.”
“The man was suffering. He was on doctor’s care. He was on a regiment of lithium, etc., and the police were here earlier that day,” the attorney told WPVI.
Philadelphia has agreed to settle with Wallace’s family over a wrongful death lawsuit. Although neither the city nor the family’s attorneys would disclose the amount, sources confirmed that the family would receive around $2.5 million for their son’s death.
The family also wants the police better equipped for dealing with suspects suffering from mental health issues. Their lawsuit was the driving force behind the city’s decision to spend $14 million to equip all officers with stun guns. Neither officer who responded to the scene had a stun gun because the department hadn’t received the funding.
While Wallace apparently suffered from mental health issues, he also carries a significant criminal record. In 2013, he pled guilty to assault and resisting arrest after hitting a police officer. In 2017, he pled guilty to assault, robbery, and possessing an instrument of crime after kicking down a woman’s door and putting a gun to her head.
The family is satisfied with the settlement, but their attorney claims the main goal of the legal pursuit was to make changes to the department’s policing policies.
“It was … a substantial monetary settlement that reflected the tragedy that took place, the city’s role and policy failures that contributed to his death,” Johnson said. “The financial settlement was never the family’s primary objective. They have from the beginning called for reforms to the police department.”
The family demanded that the police stop Wallace’s rampage of violence. Additionally, they never mentioned in the 911 call that Wallace was mentally disturbed. However, once the officers did just as they are trained to do, the family accused them of racism and wrongfully shooting an armed man.
There is no perfect solution to cases like this. Wallace was armed, aggressive, and refused to obey police orders. Had he complied, he would still be alive. Had the officers refrained from shooting him, they might not be.