Philadelphia Police Did Not Need to Kill Walter Wallace Jr.

Blast Zone No. 26023 - 2 Comments
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Officers with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr. earlier today after he refused to drop a knife and continued moving in their direction. We believe that although force was reasonably necessary to stop Wallace's advance that the PPD should have at least tried to use less than lethal force. We say this because of the distance between Wallace and the officers as well as the speed with which he was moving at the time that they opened fire.

In the video below you can see that Wallace Jr. ignored repeated orders to drop the knife and continued advancing towards the officers as they continually moved out of the way and backed up before eventually shooting him. We believe that the officers should have tried using a taser or shooting him in a less lethal location such as his legs before shooting him in the torso. We say this because there were several feet between them and Wallace was not moving very fast. This was not a case like the shooting of Ricardo Munoz in Lancaster earlier this year ( In that case Munoz was sprinting after an officer with a knife, the officer tried to run away, and only then did he open fire in self defense. We sided with the officer in that case because we think that anyone regardless of their occupation has the right to use lethal force when a knife wielding manic is sprinting at them. The officer in the Munoz case did not have a reasonable opportunity to use less than lethal force without putting himself at significant risk of death or serious injury. Had Munoz been moving slowly like Wallace was that would have been a different story. We see no good reason why the officers that shot Wallace Jr. could not have at least tried a taser or a leg shot. They did not need to go for the kill right away and that is why this shooting does not appear justified.

The police are supposed to be trained to de-escalate situations with suspects that appear mentally ill. The purpose for such de-escalation is so that the suspect either surrenders or can be incapacitated without being killed. Tasers are designed for just that purpose. When officers have distance between themselves and a slow moving suspect armed with just a knife they should always try using a taser. If the taser does not work then they can go for a leg shot. If the leg shot does not work then they can go for a kill shot. They should never go for the kill right away like they did in this case.

UPDATE: Philadelphia Police Chief Danielle Outlaw issued a statement today saying that these officers did not have tasers due to budget cuts, so they literally had to choose between shooting and disarming him by hand. Still, we think they could have at least tried a leg shot first.

Another note, for people that care about cops and do not care about people like Walter Wallace Jr., police officers often seek treatment for PTSD after killing people, especially the first time. What good does it do to deny officers the chance to use tasers before traumatizing themselves?

Even if you don't care if someone like Wallace lives or dies it does not benefit any officer not have the option of a taser. Most cops do not enjoy killing people, so they probably would much prefer to have the option of a taser. Nobody is served by denying them tasers.

Now that we know that the PPD does not give its officers tasers due to budget cuts we think that the chief should resign. There is no acceptable excuse for that. If they need to save money they should lay off some staff.

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