Philadelphia police officers shot and killed a black man as he walked towards them on the street Monday afternoon. Police said the man carried a knife.
Pictures of shooting posted on social media, showing two officers with their guns drawn back as the man approached them. The police fired several times and the man collapsed to the ground. He died of his injuries at a nearby hospital on Inquirer reported.
Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the newspaper his son was struggling with mental health. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” asked the father. “Her mother was trying 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 everything for anyone,” the family said. “No matter the favor or the hour, he always went by. And, he was a family man, he just married Dominique and he has seven children plus one to pay each day.”
The shooting sparked protests Monday night in Philadelphia, which turned violent and, police said, resulted in 30 police officers injured.
On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Keith Hickox confirmed to BuzzFeed News News that “several hundred members” of the Pennsylvania National Guard were deployed to the city in anticipation of further protests and civil unrest.
Later that night, as a second night of protests was underway in the city, Wallace’s father pleaded with protesters not to become violent on behalf of his son.
“I hope people show my family and the city some kind of respect,” he told reporters. “I don’t have time to loot and destroy the place where I live. It’s unwarranted, and the people doing this aren’t helping me or my family.”
Relatives of Wallace and a lawyer representing the family castigated the officers’ response at a press conference on Tuesday night, saying the family had called for help due to Wallace’s mental health.
Wallace was taking lithium, lawyer Shaka Johnson said, and despite the family’s request for medical assistance, it was the police who responded.
“The ambulance never arrived,” Johnson said. “[Officers] lacked the training and expense to do the job effectively and as such a man was murdered. “
The city attorney called the video of the shooting “worrying.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Lawrence Krasner told a news conference that, according to information received by his office so far, family members have called to seek medical assistance in connection with Wallace.
Instead of medical assistance, Krasner said, the family received “a response from the police as opposed to an ambulance, as opposed to a medical service.”
“When I saw the video widely distributed, I thought it was worrying,” he told reporters. “I should agree with the police commissioner and the mayor that he presents some very serious questions that need to be answered.”
Krasner said the district attorney’s office continues to review evidence, including body camera video, in connection with the shooting.
“It is far too early for me to speculate on what was going on in the minds of the officers as they fired,” he said.
Mayor of Philadelphia Jim kenney said in a statement that he had been in contact with the young man’s family and that the incident would be investigated.
“My prayers are with the family and friends of Walter Wallace,” Kenney said. “I watched the video of this tragic incident and it presents some tough questions that need to be answered.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle outlaw confirmed that there would be an investigation.
“I agree that the video of the incident raises a lot of questions,” Outlaw said in a statement. “Residents can be confident that these issues will be fully addressed by the survey.”
In a report, Board member Jamie Gauthier requested that body camera footage of the incident be released.
“We have to recognize that things didn’t need to be this way,” Gauthier said. “The use of a service weapon should be the absolute last resort for any officer. If these officers had used de-escalation techniques and non-lethal weapons rather than making the split-second decision to fire their weapons, it young man might still have life tonight.
“If these officers had enjoyed the life of this black man – if they had treated him as a person with mental health issues, instead of a criminal – we might be spared our collective outrage at a another injustice on the part of the police.
Krasner said he hoped body camera footage of the incident would be released to increase transparency with the public.
Early Tuesday morning, a speeding truck ran over a policeman who was on duty during the protests. Philadelphia local Fox TV reported the officer was in the hospital with a broken leg.
Philadelphia, like many other cities Across the country, was the site of the major protests this summer after George Floyd police murder in Minneapolis. Thousands of peaceful protesters walked in downtown Philadelphia; some people set fire to police vehicles, ransacked shops 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 Monday night’s protests. Of these arrests, 27 cases have been investigated to date on charges of second degree burglary.
Police told the district attorney’s office that 11 cases related to the alleged assault of a police officer would be closed, but prosecutors did not receive those cases on Tuesday evening, he said.
Wallace’s murder 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 who suffer the emotional brunt of the discovery of another lost black life in America,” Biden said in a statement. “We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death.”
He also said he criticized the violence that erupted during the protests.
“No anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence,” he said. “Attacking the police 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, said Johnson, including his eldest son, Zamir, who spoke to reporters on Tuesday night.
“We always go to places and we always played,” he said. “And white racist cops have my own dad. And black lives still matter.”