Attorney: Philadelphia Police Dept. ignored 2015 DOJ report urging distribution of tasers to officers

In the fallout of the police-involved shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr., family attorney Shaka Johnson argued Friday that the Philadelphia Police Department failed to adhere to a 2015 Department of Justice report urging the department to outfit uniformed officers with tasers.

According to Johnson, a federal probe into the department concluded that all Philadelphia police officers should be issued a taser as a standard utility. An Electronic Control Weapon, according to the findings presented by Johnson, would lead to far less deadly force incidents by police. 

Officers shot and killed Wallace Jr. on the 6100 block of Locust Street on Oct. 26 after he refused to drop a knife. The family has argued that Wallace Jr. was experiencing a mental crisis and needed medical attention instead of police intervention. 

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw identified the two officers who opened fire on Wallace as Officers Sean Matarazzo, 25, and Thomas Munz, 26. Neither officer had been taser trained by the department and an alternative de-escalation tool.

According to Johnson, the Wallace family has not called for the arrest of Matarazzo and Munz, and decided to appeal to District Attorney Larry Krasner's judgment.

"[The Wallace family] is not calling for the arrest of these particular officers in this particular case, they are not taking a position on it either way," Johnson said. "What in fact they are relying on is one of the most progressive District Attorneys that we have in this nation."  

Outlaw pledged Wednesday to put reforms in place by late next year that includes more de-escalation training for police and better coordination with mental health specialists.

During a Friday afternoon press conference, Johnson said the DOJ report found that the Philadelphia Police Department protocol requires officers to complete Crisis Intervention Training before they are able to an Electronic Control Weapon.

"This requirement conflates the two tactical approaches and limits the distribution less lethal tools throughout the department," Johnson said, citing the DOJ's report. 

MORE: Body camera footage of Walter Wallace Jr. shooting released; officers identified

"If [DOJ recommendations] had been followed, Walter Wallace would be alive today, those officers would have had an option," Johnson said. "[The DOJ] are stressing to the Philadelphia Police Department five years ago a less lethal option on the duty belt of officers at all times. That was not adhered to."

The wake of Wallace's death sparked days of protests and unrest that spiraled into looting and destruction in some areas around the city. The city issued a curfew two night last week amid the unrest, and released the body camera footage and 911 calls on Wednesday.

Wallace Jr. will be laid to rest on Saturday. His mother, Kathy Brant, has been bedridden for the past several days and checked into the hospital on Tuesday to receive fluids.


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