Black Man with Mental Health Issues Killed by Police

Walter Wallace, shot and killed by Philadelphia Police Department officers
Walter Wallace Jr.


Police Kill Knife-Wielding Mentally Ill Man

(PA) – On October 26, Walter Wallace experienced a mental health issue due to his bipolar disorder. His family called for an ambulance but two Philadelphia Police Department officers arrived instead. The killing of Walter Wallace is a difficult call. When officers arrived, Mr. Wallace was in the street waving a knife around. He did approach the officers while holding a weapon and the officers did tell him to drop the weapon. When Mr. Wallace did not comply and continued to move toward the police officers, they fired 14 shots. But that’s just a snapshot of what happened. It doesn’t tell the whole story.

Was It Murder?

In my opinion, it’s hard to look at the situation and claim the officers murdered Walter Wallace. Yes, the officers could tell that he was suffering from a mental issue, but people having a mental episode can still be dangerous. Articles are claiming that the officers didn’t attempt to de-escalate the situation. I didn’t see a whole lot of time in the video to be able to do that, and frankly, they weren’t speaking to a rational man.

Here’s where I think the Philadelphia Police Department starts to have problems. The officers went from telling Mr. Wallace to drop the knife, which is not considered force, and jumped immediately to deadly force. Why?

Were the officers carrying pepper spray? If so, why didn’t they use it? If not, why not? Batons could have been used but that would mean the officers would have to get within striking distance, placing themselves in jeopardy. Batons would not have been a wise choice. We know that the officers did not have tasers, so they couldn’t resort to those. Why didn’t the officers have tasers? Basically, budget constraints.

Even the family does not want the officers charged with murder, but there definitely is a degree of negligence on the part of the City of Philadelphia in not supplying officers with the proper tools to address this type of situation. A taser would have allowed the officers to maintain a distance yet take Mr. Wallace down without killing him. Yes, budgets are an issue but it’s a bigger issue to kill Black people and mentally ill people.

If It’s Not Murder Why Are People Protesting?

When a problem goes unaddressed for a long time it wears on people’s minds. They start losing their ability to give the benefit of the doubt because they don’t perceive any attempts to fix the situation. They start seeing intent in every action, whether it’s there or not. Let’s face it, off the top of my head I can rattle off the following names: Breonna Taylor, Ronald Greene, George Floyd, Daniel Prude, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Damian Lamar Daniels, Javier Ambler, and Jonathan Price. All of those people are Black and all of them have been killed by police officers.

Like I said, that’s just off the top of my head. There would be plenty more names if I took the time to think about it, and even more if I researched online. How many White people can you name off the top of your head, who have been shot to death by police? I can think of only one, Michael Reinoehl.

That’s why people protest. It’s more than obvious that there is a problem. It’s more than obvious that police don’t want to address the problem. But until police take some meaningful steps to eliminate racists and/or abusers from their ranks and to keep those types of people out of law enforcement, the general public will view law enforcement in a negative light. There will be no more benefit of the doubt.


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