On Oct. 26, another young Black man was killed by police in Philadelphia. Walter Wallace Jr. was shot multiple times by officers after his mother told them he had bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a mental health crisis. This unconscionable act parallels the August shooting of Grant Paul Dalton in Asheville, who was shot by officers as he exited an empty [city] bus. Dalton was known by police to have mental health diagnoses and substance use issues.
These two events highlight the inappropriateness and danger of allowing armed police to respond to individuals suffering from mental and emotional distress. They are also a sobering illustration of racial disparities in police encounters: Both Dalton and Wallace needed competent psychiatric crisis intervention. Responders in both incidents knew of their victims’ diagnoses and proceeded to fire their weapons. Dalton was shot once and survived. Dalton is white. Wallace was shot multiple times and is dead. Wallace was Black.
We do not need or want police responding to our friends, family and neighbors in despair. We do not want people of color, neurodivergent or differently abled folks to fear for their lives when they are crying out for help. Firearms do not de-escalate; caring mental health professionals do.
The city of Asheville recently passed an insulting 3% cut in the APD budget, one that trimmed the fat from innocuous [areas] like animal control. Please, Asheville, let’s continue to be vocal about these important issues through organizing, demonstrations and public comment at City Council meetings. Let’s demand ethical, compassionate care for everyone in our community and acknowledge that we cannot look to the police for these interventions.
— Megan Piscitelle
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the Asheville Police Department for clarification about what police knew about Dalton. We received the following response from police spokesperson Christina Hallingse: “This incident remains under review by the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office, and there is no additional information we can provide at this time.
“Please note, it is standard procedure and the policy of the Asheville Police Department for all officer-involved shootings to be investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office, as well as reviewed by APD to ensure all departmental policies and procedures were followed.”
An Aug. 29 Citizen Times story reported that APD’s crisis negotiation team contacted Dalton’s mother during the incident, and she told them about her son’s mental illness.