Police charge at a crowd along 52nd Street in West Philadelphia in the early hours of Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
Police shot a 27-year-old Black man named Walter Wallace Jr. nearly a dozen times on Monday as he was experiencing a mental health crisis, killing him and sparking protests in West Philadelphia overnight.
Shortly after 4 p.m. Monday, police said, they responded to reports from the city’s Cobbs Creek neighborhood that Wallace was armed with a knife. Video posted to Twitter shows the final moments of the incident: Philadelphia police officers are backing up with their guns drawn as Wallace walks toward them, while his mother, who has not been named, tries to de-escalate the situation.
The video shows that Wallace is several feet away when the cops begin firing around a dozen shots, at which point Wallace’s body falls to the ground. Wallace’s mother runs out into the street and cries out in agony.
“Y’all didn’t have to give him that many fucking shots,” the person recording the video says. One of the officers drove Wallace to a hospital, where he died, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
WARNING: The following video is graphic.
Wallace was on medication for mental health issues, his father told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Walter Wallace Sr. said his son was shot 10 times. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” his father said. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.”
Both officers were wearing body cameras, police said. VICE News has requested the footage.
Philadelphia police commissioner Danielle Outlaw, the first Black woman to lead the city’s police department, acknowledged in a statement that the footage “raises many questions.”
“Residents have my assurance that those questions will be fully addressed by the investigation,” Outlaw said, adding that she “heard and felt the anger of the community. Everyone involved will forever be impacted.”
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department confirmed Tuesday that the officers involved in the shooting were placed on desk duty pending the outcome of an investigation.
The killing sparked protests in West Philadelphia. Several hundred demonstrators took over the streets, video taken by reporters and other observers showed. There was “considerable property damage,” according to the Inquirer.
The police claimed 30 officers were injured as part of the uprising, during which a cop car was set on fire and police fought with demonstrators. Video showed a black pickup truck hitting an officer, who according to police was hospitalized with a broken leg and other injuries. The cop is in stable condition, police said.
“Oh my God, he hit a cop,” the person recording said.
WARNING: the following video is graphic.
After several hours, the crowd reportedly dispersed, though the fury was still evident in a neighborhood that was the site of some of the most heated protests of earlier this summer. “Y’all got mace and a Taser. Y’all brought a gun to a knife fight,” one protester told cops in a video taken by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Samantha Melamed.
Philadelphia cops shot off dozens of tear gas canisters in West Philadelphia on May 31 during demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd; Outlaw has since put a moratorium on the use of tear gas, and the Philadelphia City Council could soon move to ban its use completely. Police used riot shields and batons on Monday, according to the Washington Post.
City leaders responded to news of the shooting on Monday. Mayor Jim Kenny echoed Outlaw, saying the video “presents difficult questions that must be answered.”
“I spoke tonight with Mr. Wallace’s family, and will continue to reach out to hear their concerns first-hand, and to answer their questions to the extent that I am able,” Kenney said in a statement.
“The Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit of PPD will conduct a full investigation. I look forward to a speedy and transparent resolution for the sake of Mr. Wallace, his family, the officers, and for Philadelphia.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office was conducting an investigation as well. “We intend to go where the facts and law lead us and to do so carefully, without rushing to judgment and without bias of any kind,” Krasner said in a statement.
“In the hours and days following this shooting,” Krasner added, “we ask Philadelphians to come together to uphold people’s freedom to express themselves peacefully and to reject violence of any kind.”