Who Was Walter Wallace Jr.? Fatal Police Shooting of Philadelphia Man Sparks Mass Protests

Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Philadelphia police on Monday, sparking massive protests hours later.

The shooting took place at around 4 p.m. after two officers responded to a residence in the 6100 block of Locust Street in West Philadelphia to reports of a man with a knife.

A video posted on Twitter shows the man, later identified by City Council member Jamie Gauthier as Wallace, walk into the street while officers had their guns pointed at him.

"Put the guns down," a person can be heard yelling, shortly before the officers move backwards as Wallace moves towards them.

The camera points to the ground as multiple gunshots are heard, but Wallace appeared to be several feet from the officers at the time. The camera moves up as Wallace drops to the ground and several people rush towards him, including a screaming woman.

"Bro, they just killed him in front of me," a man's voice is then heard saying. "Y'all ain't have to give him that many f**king shots!"

Sgt. Eric Gripp, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that officers had ordered Wallace to drop the knife and that he had "advanced toward the officers."

Gripp said both officers fired their guns "several times" and one drove Wallace to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he died. The police department has been contacted for additional comment.

Wallace's father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the newspaper that his son had struggled with mental health issues, and was on medication. "Why didn't they use a Taser?" he asked. "His mother was trying to defuse the situation."

A witness, Maurice Holloway, told the Inquirer that Wallace had been standing on the porch of his home holding a knife and that officers had immediately drawn their guns when they arrived on the scene. Wallace's mother had tried to shield him from police after he walked down the steps of the porch, Holloway said.

"I'm yelling, 'Put down the gun, put down the gun,' and everyone is saying, 'Don't shoot him, he's gonna put it down, we know him.' They were too far from him; it was so many shots," Holloway added.

In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he had watched "the video of this tragic incident" and said it "presents difficult questions that must be answered."

Kenney said he had spoken with Wallace's family on Monday night "to hear their concerns firsthand, and to answer their questions to the extent that I am able."

Philadelphia's police commissioner Danielle Outlaw said an investigation into the shooting is underway. "I recognize that the video of the incident raises many questions," she said in a statement.

"I will be leaning on what the investigation gleans to answer the many unanswered questions that exist. I also plan to join the Mayor in meeting with members of the community and members of Mr. Wallace's family to hear their concerns as soon as it can be scheduled," she added.

In her statement, Gauthier called on police to "immediately" release the officers' body camera footage of the incident. "The public deserves a full, unvarnished accounting of what took place today," she said.

Gauthier also criticized the officers for their actions, saying "things did not need to play out this way."

"Had these officers employed de-escalation techniques and non-lethal weapons rather than making the split-second decision to fire their guns, this young man might still have his life tonight," she said.

"Had these officers valued the life of this Black man—had they treated him as a person experiencing mental health issues, instead of a criminal—we might be spared our collective outrage at yet another injustice at the hands of police. In this moment of reckoning and pain for West Philly, we need accountability, we need justice, and we need it now."

Meanwhile, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office was looking into the shooting. "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," he said in a statement.

"In the hours and days following this shooting, we ask Philadelphians to come together to uphold people's freedom to express themselves peacefully and to reject violence of any kind."

At least 12 Philadelphia police officers were hospitalized after rioting broke out in the wake of the shooting. Crowds set fire to cars and dumpsters and looted multiple stores in West Philadelphia, police said, according to NBC Philadelphia.

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A protester holds a sign stating "BLACK LIVES MATTER" towards police shooting tear gas after a march through Center City on June 1, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mark Makela/Getty Images