One year after Wallace shooting, we ask: Do more Philadelphia police officers have Tasers?

The officers who shot Walter Wallace Jr. last year didn't have Tasers. One year later, Action News found not much has changed.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
One year after Wallace shooting: Do more officers have Tasers?
One year after Walter Wallace Jr. was shot by Philadelphia police, where does the department stand on the use of Tasers?

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The last seconds of Walter Wallace Jr's life have played in the minds of many people for the past year. They are among those who watched the police bodycam video of Wallace right before he was shot by Philadelphia police.

"It was just a traumatic day," said Catherine Hicks, president of NAACP Philadelphia Branch.

It happened on October 26, 2020, in the 6100 block of Locust Street in West Philadelphia. Wallace's family called 911 because he was having a mental episode.

Wallace had a history of mental illness, which involved diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The day police were called, Wallace had been attacking his mother - the very woman who tried to intervene when police drew their guns as they instructed Wallace to put down a knife.

"I'm sure that they didn't think that would be the day they'd lose their loved one," Hicks says of the family members who called 911. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Bodycam video shows Wallace walking towards police while holding a knife. After police ordered him to put the knife down at least 11 times, they fired 14 shots.

The City of Philadelphia has released bodycam video and 911 audio of the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. on Wednesday.

Groups like the NAACP Philadelphia Branch asked why police couldn't use non-lethal force. At the time, police said it was because the officers on-scene didn't have Tasers.

6abc found that there's been little change when it comes to the issue of Tasers in the police department in the past year.

In October 2020, the Philadelphia Police Department had 2,300 Tasers. Today, they have 2,360. That's only an additional 60 Tasers. But police note they have 330 fewer officers.

SEE ALSO: Philadelphia police officer shot after being attacked by man with hammer, pickaxe

According to numbers provided to Action News, Philadelphia has 5,950 total officers. Of that figure, 3,565 are on patrol. Dividing the number of Tasers by the total number of officers means just under 40% of them would have Tasers. Dividing the Tasers among just patrol officers would mean about 66% of them have access to the non-lethal resource.

"Every officer should be trained and possess a Taser," said Hicks.

"It's not about charging folks, this is about a systemic change, and shifting policy, and making reform so that there's not another Walter Wallace ever again in this city," said Shaka Johnson.

Police say they recently received a shipment of 4,650 newer-model Tasers, which will be on the streets once officers are trained on how to use them. The NAACP says that training should also include how to handle mental health crises.

"They (should) have a person who comes out and diffuses that situation. Not a police officer that comes with their guns drawn ready to shoot," said Hicks.

It's a difference that she says could have saved a life that was lost one year ago today.

"And hopefully make sure that this type of situation doesn't happen again."

Wallace's family issued the following statement on Tuesday evening:

"The Wallace Family continues to mourn the unnecessary and tragic death of Walter Wallace on the 1-year anniversary of his shooting.

They continue to highlight the importance of the reforms which they have demanded since his death, including the Philadelphia Police Department's procedures related to mental health and the provision of tasers to all uniformed police officers. It is their overwhelming desire that these reforms will lead to a safer City for all citizens and ensure that no family will be forced to endure the tragedy of the loss of a loved one during a mental crisis.

The family appreciates the respect for their privacy on this day as they mourn together."