The Slatest

Philadelphia Police’s Fatal Shooting of Armed Black Man Suffering From Mental Illness Sparks Unrest

Philadelphia police shot and killed a 27-year-old Black man carrying a knife Monday afternoon, prompting angry protests over the killing that turned violent overnight. Police responded to a call of that a man, later identified as Walter Wallace Jr., was acting erratically and carrying a knife. When the officers arrived, Wallace, whose father told the Philadelphia Inquirer was on medication for mental health issues, was standing on his front porch with the knife as his family tried to defuse the situation. When police arrived, one eyewitness said they immediately drew their weapons and the incident escalated from there.

“Wallace’s mother chased after him as he walked down the steps of his porch, still holding the knife,” eyewitness Maurice Holloway told the Inquirer. “His mother tried to shield Wallace and tell police he was her son.” “[E]veryone is saying, ‘Don’t shoot him, he’s gonna put it down, we know him,’” Holloway said. The video of the incident shows Wallace’s mother trailing him as he circled around parked cars and back towards the middle of the residential street where the two officers had drawn their weapons. Wallace walked in the direction of the officers as they retreated, when police fired at him. The Philadelphia police department said in a statement that the officers had told Wallace to drop the knife and that he was advancing on the officers. The recording taken by a neighbor dips down at the ground just at the moment of the shooting, but appears to show Wallace still a distance from the officers as about a dozen shots were fired.

“Why didn’t they use a Taser?” Wallace’s father said after the shooting. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.” The city’s mayor said a video taken at the scene of the shooting of Wallace Jr. raised “difficult questions that must be answered.” The city’s police commissioner said there would be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

On Monday evening, as many as three hundred protesters gathered near the site of the shooting amidst a heavy police presence. Police said 30 cops were injured during clashes with protesters, most of which were from projectiles thrown by protesters. Authorities say a police vehicle was destroyed, looting took place, and more than 30 arrests were made overnight.