Philadelphia Police Shot And Killed Walter Wallace Jr.
Philadelphia police officers shot a black man walking towards them on the street Monday afternoon. Police said the man was carrying a knife.
Footage of the shooting was circulated on social media and showed two officers with guns drawn walking backwards as the man approached them. The police shot several times and the man fell to the ground. He died of his injuries in a nearby hospital, the investigator reported.
Officials identified the man as Walter Wallace Jr., 27, according to the Associated Press.
Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the newspaper that his son had mental health problems. “Why didn’t you use a taser?” asked the father. “His mother tried to defuse the situation.”
Wallace had recently married, was a father, 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 anything for anyone,” said the family. “No matter what the favor was or what time it was, he would always get through. And he was a family man, he recently married Dominique and he has seven children plus one that’s due every day.”
The shooting sparked protests in Philadelphia on Monday evening that turned violent and resulted in 30 officers being injured, according to police.
On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Keith Hickox confirmed to BuzzFeed News News that “several hundred members” of the Pennsylvania National Guard had been dispatched to the city in anticipation of further protests and rioting.
Later that night, when a second night of protests took place in the city, Wallace’s father asked protesters not to engage in violence on his son’s behalf.
“I hope people show respect for my family and the city,” he told reporters. “I don’t have time to loot and destroy where I live. It is inappropriate and the people who do this are not helping me or my family.”
Wallace’s relatives and a lawyer representing the family blew up officials’ reaction during a press conference Tuesday night, saying the family had sought help about Wallace’s mental health.
Wallace took lithium, lawyer Shaka Johnson said, and despite the family’s request for medical help, it was the police officers who responded.
“The ambulance never made it,” said Johnson. “”[Officers] did not have the training and the tolls to do the job effectively, and as such, a man was murdered. “
The city’s district attorney called the video of the shooting “worrying”.
Philadelphia District Attorney Lawrence Krasner said at a news conference that, according to information his office has received so far, family members have made a phone call to request medical help related to Wallace.
Instead of medical help, Krasner said, the family received a “response that was police as opposed to an ambulance as opposed to medical service”.
“When I saw the popular video, I thought it was worrying,” he told reporters. “I would have to agree with both the police commissioner and the mayor that there are some very serious questions that need to be answered.”
Krasner said prosecutors continue to review evidence, including body camera videos, related to the shootings.
“It is far too early for me to speculate about what was going on in the minds of the officers when they fired their shots,” he said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that he had been in contact with the young man’s family and that the incident was under investigation.
“My prayers are with Walter Wallace’s family and friends,” said Kenney. “I saw the video of this tragic incident and it has tough questions that need to be answered.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw confirmed that an investigation would be underway.
“I realize the video of the incident raises a lot of questions,” Outlaw said in a statement. “The residents have my assurance that the investigation will fully answer these questions.”
In a statement, Councilor Jamie Gauthier called for body cameras to be released of the incident.
“We have to acknowledge that things didn’t have to be that way,” said Gauthier. “The use of a service weapon should be the absolute last resort for every officer.” If these officers had used de-escalation techniques and non-lethal weapons instead of making a split second decision to fire their weapons, this young man might still have his life tonight.
“Had these officials valued this black man’s life – had they treated him as a person suffering from mental health problems rather than a criminal – we could spare our collective outrage over another injustice by the police.”
Krasner said it was his hope that body camera footage of the incident would be released to increase transparency for the public.
Early Tuesday morning, a speeding truck ran over a police officer who was on duty during the protests. Philadelphia’s local Fox TV station reported that the officer was in hospital with a broken leg.
Philadelphia, like many other cities across the country, was the scene of major protests this summer after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Thousands of peaceful protesters marched through downtown Philadelphia. Some people burned police vehicles, ransacked shops, and crashed into police.
Between 100 and 200 protesters gathered after Wallace’s death on Monday night in a neighborhood where people had demonstrated Floyd’s death, the investigator reported.
Krasher said 91 people were arrested by police during Monday night’s protests. Of these arrests, 27 cases related to second-degree burglary allegations have been reviewed to date.
Police told prosecutors that eleven cases would be filed related to the alleged attack by a police officer, but prosecutors did not receive these cases by Tuesday evening, he said.
Wallace’s assassination also sparked a reaction from former Vice President Joe Biden, calling the shootout another painful incident involving a black police officer.
“Our hearts are broken for the family of Walter Wallace Jr. and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another lost black life in America,” Biden said in a statement. “We cannot accept that a mental health crisis in this country will end in death.”
He also criticized the violence that broke out during the protests.
“No anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence,” he said. “Attacking police officers and destroying small businesses already struggling during a pandemic does not bring the moral arc of the universe any closer to justice.”
Wallace left nine children behind, Johnson said, including his eldest son Zamir, who spoke to reporters Tuesday night.
“We always go to places and have always played around,” he said. “And white racist cops have my own father. And black lives are still important.”