Protests Rise in Philly After Police Murder Black Man Amid Mental Health Crisis

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—West Philly saw a quickly escalating situation develop on 4 p.m. Monday afternoon and dragging into the evening and overnight. In a graphic and disturbing video circulating on social media, two white Philadelphia Police (PPD) officers are seen repeatedly shooting a Black man in front of his mother from several feet away as he walked while holding a knife. Neither of the two officers in the video seemed to attempt to use their taser, and they appeared to have fired around ten bullets while they were several arms lengths away from the man they shot.

The man struck down dead by the two PPD officers was identified as 27-year-old Walter Wallace, Jr.

His father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the Philadelphia Inquirer that his son was dealing with mental illness, was on medication, and “his mother was trying to diffuse the situation” when police came and shot him.

Many witnesses were present for Wallace’s death and his family, friends and neighbors quickly reacted with grief and rage to the sight of him being gunned down dead in the street.

Video of the scene taken by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Ellie Rushing shows that police had placed evidence markers indicating as many as 13 shell casings.

The scene of the deadly shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr. by two Philadelphia Police officers.
The scene of the deadly shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr. by two Philadelphia Police officers.

Both of the white officers involved in the shooting death of Walter Wallace, Jr. have reportedly been suspended pending an investigation. If common police practices for “officer-involved shootings” are being followed, they are both presumably now on paid leave.

In an official city statement, Philly Mayor Jim Kenney said, “I have watched the video of this tragic incident and it presents difficult questions that must be answered.” Kenney promised “a speedy and transparent resolution” but the only specific detail he offered was that the “Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit of PPD will conduct a full investigation.”

Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner’s statement about the shooting avoided any specifics but also promised an investigation.

Police called in reinforcements to clear the mourning neighbors from the street and reportedly dispersed the crowd at the shooting scene by 6:30 p.m., according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Around 7 p.m. on Monday night, a crowd of several hundred protesters began to gather at Malcolm X Park.

Protesters marched throughout the area, taking the streets and followed by supporting honking vehicles. They also congregated for a time outside a nearby police precinct.

At some point outside the precinct, objects such as rocks and bricks reportedly began to be thrown at officers.

Police with riot gear and shields then pushed the crowd away from the police building, charging people through the street as trash cans and various other projectiles were pelted at them by an increasingly militant local crowd.

Police appeared unable to contain the community’s furious response to their having shot a Black man to death in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. Crowds went on to smash into several area businesses and take commercial goods, smash and burn police vehicles, launch fireworks, and reportedly commandeered at least one construction vehicle.

In one photo captured by Inquirer journalist Samantha Melamed (who was arrested by PPD while reporting on a protest in June) a police cruiser can be seen burning in front of a billboard reading “the power of justice”:

As of early Tuesday morning, protesters remained out in the streets of West Philly. Police made several arrests, with the Major Crimes Unit reportedly having been deployed.

Around 12:45 a.m., police were using batons and charging tactics to encourage the remaining crowd to disperse.

According to Philly journalist Jason Peters, some arrested protesters are being held at PPD’s 18th precinct.

Philadelphia’s lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which supported officers involved in brutalizing protesters earlier this year, has indicated it will defend the cops who ended Walter Wallace, Jr.’s life while his family watched.