Police officers in Philadelphia shot and killed a Black man as he walked toward them in the street on Monday afternoon. Police said the man was carrying a knife.
Footage of the shooting circulated on social media, showing two officers with their guns drawn walking backward as the man approached them. The police fired multiple times, and the man crumpled to the ground. He died of his injuries at a nearby hospital, the Inquirer reported.
Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the newspaper that his son had mental health problems. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” the father asked. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.”
Wallace had recently gotten married, was a dad, and “didn’t deserve what he got,” his family said in a statement, according to NBC Philadelphia.
“Walter was a nice man he would do anything and everything for anybody,” the family said. “No matter what the favor was or what time it was he would always come through. And, he was a family man, he just recently got married to Dominique and he got seven kids plus one due any day.”
The shooting prompted protests Monday night in Philadelphia, which turned violent and, according to police resulted in 30 officers being injured.
On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Keith Hickox confirmed to BuzzFeed News News that “several hundred members” of the Pennsylvania National Guard were being deployed to the city in anticipation of more protests and civil unrest.
Later that night, as a second night of protests were underway in the city, Wallace’s father pleaded with demonstrators not to turn violent in his son’s name.
“I hope people show my family and the city some sort of respect,” he told reporters. “I ain’t got time to loot and destroy where I live. It’s uncalled for, and the people that are doing that, they’re not helping me and my family.”
Relatives of Wallace and an attorney representing the family blasted the officers’ response during a press conference Tuesday night, saying the family had called for assistance due to Wallace’s mental health.
Wallace was taking Lithium, attorney Shaka Johnson said, and despite the family’s request for medical assistance it was police officers who responded.
“The ambulance never made it,” Johnson said. “[Officers] didn’t have the training and the tolls to do the job effectively and, as such, a man was murdered.”
The city’s district attorney called video of the shooting “concerning.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Lawrence Krasner said at a press conference that, according to information received by his office so far, family members made a call requesting medical assistance in connection to Wallace.
Instead of medical assistance, Krasner said, the family received a “response that was police as opposed to an ambulance, as opposed to medical service.”
“When I saw the widely released video, I thought it was concerning,” he told reporters. “I would have to agree with both the police commissioner and the mayor that it presents some very serious questions that need to be answered.”
Krasner said the district attorney’s office was continuing to review evidence, including body camera video, in connection to the shooting.
“It’s way too early for me to speculate what was going on in the minds of the officers at the moment when they fired their shots,” he said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that he had been in touch with the young man’s family and that the incident would be undergoing an investigation.
“My prayers are with the family and friends of Walter Wallace,” Kenney said. “I have watched the video of this tragic incident and it presents difficult questions that must be answered.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw confirmed there would be an investigation.
“I recognize that the video of the incident raises many questions,” Outlaw said in a statement. “Residents have my assurance that those questions will be fully addressed by the investigation.”
In a statement, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier called for body camera footage of the incident to be released.
“We must acknowledge that things did not need to play out this way,” Gauthier said. “Resorting to the use of a service weapon should be the absolute last resort for any officer. Had these officers employed de-escalation techniques and non-lethal weapons rather than making the split-second decision to fire their guns, this young man might still have his life tonight.
“Had these officers valued the life of this Black man — had they treated him as a person experiencing mental health issues, instead of a criminal — we might be spared our collective outrage at yet another injustice at the hands of police.”
Krasner said it was his hope body camera footage from the incident would be released to increase transparency with the public.
Early Tuesday morning, a speeding truck ran over a police officer who was on duty at the protests. Philadelphia’s local Fox TV station reported that the officer is in the hospital with a broken leg.
Philadelphia, like many other cities across the country, was the site of major protests this summer after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Thousands of peaceful protesters marched through Philadelphia’s downtown; some people burned police vehicles, ransacked stores, and clashed with police.
Between 100 and 200 protesters gathered after Wallace’s death on Monday night, in a neighborhood where people had demonstrated over Floyd’s death, the Inquirer reported.
Krasher said 91 people were arrested by police during the protests Monday night. Of those arrest, 27 cases have been reviewed so far in connection with second-degree burglary charges.
Police told the district attorney’s office 11 cases connected with suspected assault of a police officer would be filed, but prosecutors have not received those cases as of Tuesday evening, he said.
The killing of Wallace also prompted former vice president Joe Biden to respond, calling the shooting another painful incident of a Black man killed by police.
“Our hearts are broken for the family of Walter Wallace Jr., and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another Black life in America lost,” Biden said in a statement. “We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death.”
He also said criticized the violence that erupted during the protests.
“No amount of anger at the very real injustices in our society excuse violence,” he said. “Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice.”
Wallace left behind nine children, Johnson said, including his eldest son, Zamir, who spoke to reporters Tuesday night.
“We always go places and we used to always play around,” he said. “And white racist cops got my own dad. And Black lives still matter.”