Walter Wallace Jr.’s family awarded wrongful death settlement from City of Philadelphia

Family members stand with Attorney Shaka Johnson (right) and Councilmember Gautier (center) at a press conference regarding the court settlement in the wrongful death of Walter Wallace Jr

Family members stand with Attorney Shaka Johnson (right) and Councilmember Gautier (center) at a press conference regarding the court settlement in the wrongful death of Walter Wallace Jr. (Ericka Conant/WHYY)

The City of Philadelphia has settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Walter Wallace Jr.’s family, a Black man killed by city police officers in October of last year.

Lawyers announced Thursday afternoon that a settlement was reached, but kept the amount private until the Inquirer reported later that evening that the family was awarded $2.5 million from the city.

“This was a substantial monetary settlement that reflected the tragedy that took place, the City’s role and policy failures that contributed to his death, while also taking into account the factual complexities which this tragedy presented on all sides,” said family attorney Shaka Johnson.

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Next to family, lawyers, and city officials at the announcement at City Hall, was a poster with the same list of demands that Walter Wallace Jr.’s family presented a year ago.

Those demands are now included in a legally binding agreement, signed by city lawyers, to ensure that the City’s promises to the Wallace family are kept.

The poster presents three primary commitments: That the city purchase tasers for all patrol officers, that all officers be required to wear tasers while in uniform, and that the city will provide necessary training to ensure they can safely operate those tasers.

On Tuesday, city officials agreed to equip all patrol officers with tasers, meeting the family’s demand made shortly after Wallace’s death. The family hopes that if police use ‘non-lethal’ weapons in confrontations like the one they had with Wallace it will prevent more wrongful deaths.

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“Since 2015, the Department of Justice has recommended these exact reforms. However, even calls from the Department of Justice failed to move the City of Philadelphia to implement these common sense life-preserving measures,” Johnson said.

Just hours before the settlement was announced, City Council introduced a measure to memorialize the life of Walter Wallace Jr., by commemorating the role of his family in achieving changes to the police department.

Councilmember Gauthier said the city will also continue to change the way that officers respond to 911 calls regarding behavioral health emergencies.

As for the $2.5 million, Johnson said it feels “cheap in some respects.”

“Whatever they do with it, they do it without Walter. Whether they choose to open a school in his name, honor him, whether they choose to take it to the casino. It doesn’t matter. Whatever they do, they do it without Walter,” he said.

Wallace’s death came just months after the police murder of George Floyd, which sparked monthslong national outrage. The protests and pushes for reform following both deaths pushed the city of Philadelphia to look internally at its own law enforcement policies.

Since Wallace’s death, the family has worked with lawyers to hold the city accountable for events that family lawyers said could have been avoided.

“We just take it one day at a time,” said Walter Wallace Sr. “That’s all we do, you know?”

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