Philadelphia police on Monday fatally shot a 27-year-old Black man who they said was armed with a knife, touching off protests and violent clashes hours later.
Mayor Jim Kenney said the shooting, which was partially captured on video by a bystander, raised “difficult questions that must be answered,” and the police commissioner promised an investigation.
Late Monday night, protesters marched through West Philadelphia, and video posted on social media appeared to show police clashing with demonstrators. A police car was burned, and four officers were reported to have been hospitalized after being struck by bricks. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that another officer was hit by a truck.
The shooting took place around 4 p.m., as police responded to a report of a man armed with a knife. Video that was posted on social media shows the man, later identified by a City Council member as Walter Wallace Jr., walking into the street as people yell and two police officers aim their guns at him.
At one point, Wallace, who is several feet away from the officers in the video, walks toward them as they quickly move backward. The camera points down toward the ground as about a dozen shots are heard.
The camera quickly moves up as Wallace falls to the ground, and people rush toward him, including the officers. One woman who is screaming appears to throw something at one of the officers.
“Bro, they just killed him in front of me,” a man can be heard saying. “Y’all ain’t have to give him that many shots.”
Sgt. Eric Gripp, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, told the Inquirer that officers had ordered Wallace to drop the knife and that he had “advanced toward the officers.” After the officers shot Wallace, one of them drove him to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, he said.
The police department did not respond to email messages seeking comment.
Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., said his son had struggled with mental health issues, and was on medication, The Inquirer reported. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” he asked. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.”
Kenney, the mayor, said he had watched “the video of this tragic incident” and spoken with Wallace’s family “to hear their concerns firsthand, and to answer their questions to the extent that I am able.”
The city’s police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, said in a statement, “I recognize that the video of the incident raises many questions.” She added, “I will be leaning on what the investigation gleans to answer the many unanswered questions that exist.”
In a statement, the Council member who identified Wallace, Jamie Gauthier, said she wanted the police to “immediately” release the officers’ body camera video from the incident. “The public deserves a full, unvarnished accounting of what took place today,” she said.
Gauthier also criticized the officers for firing their weapons. “Had these officers employed de-escalation techniques and nonlethal weapons rather than making the split-second decision to fire their guns, this young man might still have his life tonight,” she said.
District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office was looking into the shooting and urged the public to be patient.
“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.”
Around 9:30 p.m., protesters were marching through the streets of West Philadelphia, with a parade of vehicles honking behind them. Just after 11 p.m., video posted on Twitter showed police officers using batons as they clashed with a large group of people on a residential street. Taryn Naundorff, 21, who recorded the video, said police “started forcefully pushing back the crowd and beating anyone who wouldn’t back up.”
At least one police car was set on fire. A protest outside the 18th District Police Station turned violent, with four officers being hit with bricks and being taken to the hospital, according to a local NBC television station.
There have been widespread demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice across the country since May, when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis.
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