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Lawyer for Philadelphia man killed by police says murder charges likely unwarranted

The Philadelphia police officers who shot and killed a Black man under mental duress should probably not be charged with murder, a lawyer for the man’s family said on Thursday (October 29), saying they lacked training and equipment to handle the situation.

Shaka Johnson made the comments after viewing the bodycam footage of Monday’s incident, in which 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. was gunned down by two officers responding to what his relatives say was a call for help with a mental health crisis.

Johnson said the footage shows one of the officers saying “shoot him” before they both fired at Wallace, who was not heeding their orders to drop a knife. He said the footage also showed Wallace dealing with an “obvious mental health crisis.”

While saying he did not think the officers should face murder charges, Johnson added that he hoped the investigation into Wallace’s death would lead to policing reforms to help prevent similar shootings in the future.

Johnson, who was flanked at the briefing by Wallace’s father and mother, said the family would like to see all Philadelphia police officers equipped with tasers. The two officers who fired a total of 14 rounds at Wallace did not have tasers on them.

“I pray things change. I pray we all one day can come together and get along. Cause this gotta stop,” said Kathy Brant, Wallace’s mother, who can be heard on a video of the shooting shared on social media pleading with the officers not to shoot.

The shooting turned Philadelphia into the latest flashpoint in a months-long series of protests over racism and policing across the United States ignited by the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the street.

(Production: Temis Tormo)

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