In a year marked by civil unrest and accusations of police brutality against people of color, another incident has taken a life and caused rioting and destruction in response. On Monday, officers shot and killed 27-year old Walter Wallace, Jr. after they responded to reports of a man wielding a knife in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia. The ensuing riots led to at least 30 officers being injured and five police cars being vandalized.
Around 4 pm, officers apprehended Wallace at Locust and South 61st streets and demanded multiple times that he drop the knife that he was holding. The encounter was caught on video and the officers were wearing activated body cameras, giving plenty of video evidence in addition to eyewitness accounts. Wallace weaved erratically between cars in the street and brandished his weapon, advancing towards officers. His mother attempted to grab his arm and hold him back before officers opened fire.
Protests were organized by Black Lives Matter supporters within hours, and hundreds gathered at a nearby park. The protests soon devolved into riots, which led to at least 33 arrests by Tuesday morning, for charges including rioting, assault on police officers, looting and possession of firearms, ABC News reported.
At least 30 officers were injured after being attacked with rocks, bottles and garbage cans. A 56-year old female sergeant was hit by a black truck speeding through a line of officers. She suffered a broken leg and other injuries, and remains hospitalized. The other 29 injured officers have been treated and released.
In addition to the five police cars being vandalized, one fire department vehicle and at least one police station were attacked.
Looters broke into several Rite Aid stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, and a restaurant. Two ATM screens were smashed. The sidewalks in the area were littered with stolen merchandise.
30 officers injured in protests after shooting of knife-wielding man by Philadelphia police https://t.co/s2OFRQgbXe
— Raymond E. Foster (@policeofficer) October 27, 2020
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said an investigation into the shooting is underway. Outlaw said she “heard and felt the anger of the community” while at the scene of the shooting Monday evening.
“I have directed the Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit to investigate,” Commissioner Outlaw said. “I recognize that the video of the incident raises many questions. Residents have my assurance that those questions will be fully addressed by the investigation. Everyone involved will forever be impacted,” she said. “I will be leaning on what the investigation gleans to answer the many unanswered questions that exist.”
Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby released a statement defending the officers: “Our police officers are being vilified this evening for doing their job and keeping the community safe, after being confronted by a man with a knife. We support and defend these officers, as they too are traumatized by being involved in a fatal shooting.”
Maurice Holloway, a witness to the shooting, told NBC10 he helped officers place Wallace in the police car that rushed him to the hospital. Wallace was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Wallace was recently married and a father to seven children, with one more due before the end of the year.