The lawsuit may include up to $2.5 million in damages, and will require Philadelphia police officers to carry tasers.
Philadelphia will pay an undisclosed settlement to the family of Walter Wallace, Jr., a Black man with mental health diagnoses who was shot and killed by police late last year.
According to The New York Times, Wallace was 27 years old when he was shot by Philadelphia police on October 26, 2020.
Wallace’s family called emergency services to report that Walter had become violent during a mental health episode. When police arrived, they found Wallace, Jr., wielding a knife. He was instructed to drop the weapon 23 times.
After Wallace refused to stand down, officers opened fire, claiming they did not have any non-lethal weapons.
The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that attorneys for the Wallace family did not disclose the settlement amount, saying that their clients want privacy. However, they did say the amount was approved by the city.
Speaking in a Wednesday news conference, attorney Shaka Johnson said that the agreement “reflects the tragedy that took place, the city’s role and policy failures that contributed to [Wallace’s] death, while also taking into account the factual complexities” of the case.
However, the Inquirer claims that anonymous sources told the paper that the settlement, at an estimated $2.5 million, may be the largest that Philadelphia has ever disbursed to the family of an armed person killed by police.
The Inquirer further observes that, in 2018, the city paid $1 million to relatives of David Jones, who was stopped by an officer for riding a dirt bike on the sidewalk.
Although Jones had a firearm, it fell to the ground and Jones was trying to run away when he was killed by Officer Ryan Pownall.
Pownall, says the Inquirer, was charged with murder and is awaiting trial.
Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents Wallace’s district, said that the city has expanded services for people with mental health issues.
Speaking to the Inquirer, Gauthier suggested that law enforcement should not, ideally, be the ones responding to mental health calls.
“If there were equity and justice in our system, we would not have police responding to mental health calls,” she said. “The reality is that we need loving, supporting systems in this city.”
The settlement stipulates that Philadelphia officers will now have to carry non-lethal weapons at all time, such as tasers.
In a separate statement, Wallace’s father—who is also named Walter Wallace, Jr.—said he is pleased with the settlement conditions and hopes that the expanded use of tasers can save other people’s lives.
“If this situation can save someone’s life, out of so many thousands of lives, I think we accomplished something,” the elder Wallace said. “I want to thank everyone who prayed for me and my family.”