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Racial Justice and Social Equity

Fatal Police Shooting In Philadelphia Sparks Protests, Clashes Overnight

Police officers stand guard in Philadelphia following protests over the police shooting death of Walter Wallace on Tuesday.
David Delgado Reuters
Police officers stand guard in Philadelphia following protests over the police shooting death of Walter Wallace on Tuesday.

Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET

Violent clashes between police and demonstrators in Philadelphia erupted Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday after police fatally shot a 27-year-old Black man. Police reported that about 30 police officers were injured during the skirmishes, according to local media.

The man, identified by officials as Walter Wallace, was killed during a confrontation Monday afternoon in West Philadelphia.


Police officials have not released the names of the two officers who fired at Wallace, but they said they have been placed on desk duty pending an investigation.

The city's mayor and police commissioner promised a full investigation in a joint statement about the incident.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he watched bystander video, which shows parts of the altercation. He called it a "tragic incident and it presents difficult questions that must be answered."

"I recognize that the video of the incident raises many questions," Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw added. While visiting the scene of the shooting, Outlaw said she "heard and felt the anger of the community." She gave assurances that any questions about what led to the shooting will be addressed in the investigation.

Police say Wallace 'advanced towards officers'


The incident started around 4 p.m. local time, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, when two officers responded to a report of a man with a knife.

Sgt. Eric Gripp, a police spokesperson, said in a statement that the responding officers ordered Wallace to drop the weapon, as Wallace "advanced towards officers."

Both officers then fired multiple times, Gripp said. They were wearing body cameras.

Gripp said one of the officers drove Wallace to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he died.

The Philadelphia Police Department has not named the officers involved in the incident.

The man's father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the Inquirer he estimated police shot his son 10 times.

"Why didn't they use a Taser?" he said, according to newspaper. "His mother was trying to defuse the situation."

"He has mental issues," he said, adding that his son was on medication. "Why you have to gun him down?"

Graphic video goes viral

A graphic video of the shooting has gone viral on social media.

A portion of the video was shared by Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who represents many Black families whose loved ones were killed or seriously injured by police this year, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and Tafara Williams.

The video shows a chaotic scene in the middle of the street as officers, with guns drawn, are seen retreating from Wallace. He approaches with an object in his hand as a crowd looks on.

The video is shaky at times. At about 25 seconds into the video, it turns away as a series of gunshots ring out. The video swings back toward Wallace to show him limp in the middle of the street.

Bystanders scream after the shooting.

Police and protesters clash

Hours later, protesters confronted officers who stood in a line with riot shields.

Police said 30 officers were hurt during clashes. That includes one officer whose leg was broken after she was struck by a pickup truck. She was admitted to the hospital, police said. All others were treated for their injuries and released.

More than 30 people were arrested overnight, CBS Philly reported, and several businesses including pharmacies, clothing stores and restaurants were targeted by looters.

Inquirer reporter Anna Orso also tweeted out videos of police with shields and a police vehicle in West Philadelphia that had been set on fire.

An Instagram user posted several videos showing tense scenes between protesters and law enforcement in riot gear.

Officers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with transparent shields marked "police," shout "Move back!" in unison as they attempt to move the crowd off a residential street.

Demonstrators shout obscenities as they fling objects at the officers, including a rubber trash can, a plastic bucket and a wooden crate.

"Y'all killed one of us tonight," one person can be heard yelling at police roughly three minutes into the video.

Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said the police killing of Wallace was another example of "a long history of brutality" against Black Philadelphians.

"This city is overdue for a reckoning with the brazenly violent and abusive behavior in its police department," Shuford said in a statement. He added that the video of the encounter between Wallace and police "suggests that no one was in immediate danger when officers killed him."

"State violence cannot be the answer to societal problems that deserve a fairer, more thoughtful, and more compassionate approach," Shuford said.

John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, issued a statement Monday expressing support for the officers involved in the shooting.

"Our police officers are being vilified for doing their job and keeping the community safe, after being confronted by a man with a knife," McNesby said. "We support and defend these officers, as they too are traumatized by being involved in a fatal shooting."

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