What to Know
- An investigation is underway after a father who police say was armed with a knife was shot and killed by officers in West Philadelphia Monday.
- Video obtained by NBC10 shows the man, identified by family as Walter Wallace Jr., approaching two police officers while a woman, who witnesses say is his mother, tries to restrain him.
- A protest and vandalism in West Philadelphia occurred Monday night into early Tuesday in response to the shooting.
A viral video captured a chaotic scene in West Philadelphia as a man, who investigators say was armed with a knife, approached police while his mother tried desperately to stop him moments before the officers opened fire and killed him.
Police said they were called to Locust and South 61st streets shortly before 5 p.m. Monday for a report of a man with a weapon. When they arrived they say they found a man, later identified as 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., who was holding a knife.
Police said they repeatedly told Wallace to drop the knife but he wouldn't listen. They then opened fire, shooting him multiple times before taking him to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
"Officers ordered him several times to drop the weapon," Philadelphia Police Sgt. Eric Gripp said Monday. "He did not do so."
Investigators said the officers involved were wearing body cameras which will be part of the investigation.
"Fortunately it appears the officers were wearing body cameras," Sgt. Gripp said. "The cameras were activated. So we should have a lot of video along with eyewitness statements."
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Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw on Tuesday, however, would not commit to releasing body-worn camera footage or naming the officers, saying certain details would not be released if they would jeopardize the investigation. The department would also not name the officers involved if it was believed there was a threat to their lives.
Chief Inspector Frank Vanore said each officer fired about seven rounds, but investigators will still need to determine how many shots struck Wallace.
Videos of the shooting from witnesses quickly surfaced on social media.
One video posted on Instagram shows Wallace, a Black man, walking toward the officers while a woman, who a witness identified as Wallace's mother, tries to stop him. Two armed police officers back away from Wallace and tell him at least twice to "put the knife down" though it's unclear from the video whether or not Wallace is holding a knife.
As Wallace continues to approach the officers, the camera briefly points downward and the sounds of several gunshots are heard as the police open fire. The camera then rises again, showing Wallace motionless on the ground as his mother runs toward him, screaming hysterically.
Maurice Holloway, a witness, told NBC10 he helped officers place Wallace in the police car that rushed him to the hospital.
"I believe they could have taken the right actions and possibly shot him in the leg or not shot him as well," Holloway said. "His mother was there. If your mother was there she’s there to protect you. They shouldn’t have shot that man in front of his mother."
Residents who knew Wallace described him as a man who loved his children and family.
"He was a nice man," Holloway said. "A wonderful man."
Wallace's family released a statement, through his cousin Carnell Hurley, saying Wallace was a father who was recently married and that he "didn’t deserve what he got."
"Walter was a nice man he would do anything and everything for anybody," the statement said. "No matter what the favor was or what time it was he would always come through. And, he was a family man, he just recently got married to Dominique and he got seven kids plus one due any day.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he spoke with Wallace's family.
"My prayers are with the family and friends of Walter Wallace," Kenney said in a statement. "I have watched the video of this tragic incident and it presents difficult questions that must be answered."
Kenney plans to meet with the Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation Committee to discuss the shooting.
Both Mayor Kenney and Commissioner Outlaw plan to meet with community members who live near where the shooting took place.
"I have directed the Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit to investigate," 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."
Outlaw said she "heard and felt the anger of the community" while at the scene of the shooting Monday evening.
"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."
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced his office's Special Investigation Unit will be part of the investigation.
"The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office takes its obligation to try to be fair and to seek evenhanded justice seriously," Krasner said. "The DAO Special Investigation Unit responded to today's fatal shooting of a civilian by police shortly after it occurred, and has been on scene with other DAO personnel since that time investigating, as we do jointly with the PPD Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Unit, in shootings and fatalities by other means involving police."
Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby also 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," McNesby wrote. "We support and defend these officers, as they too are traumatized by being involved in a fatal shooting."
A march for Wallace took place Monday night in West Philadelphia. Protesters gathered outside the 18th District police district on 55th and Pine streets.
Some of the people became violent. Police said at least 30 officers were hurt, many struck by bricks and other debris. At least one officer broke her leg when she was struck by a pickup truck.
There were also reports of vandalism, including spray-paint and smashed windows, at the University of Penn Police station on 40th and Chestnut streets.
Looting and unrest were also reported along 52nd and Chestnut streets late Monday night into Tuesday morning. The violence and unrest then spread to other parts of West Philly and in other city neighborhoods. Police arrested at least 91 people overnight, charging most with looting.
The shooting, protests and unrest came amid a year of widespread civil unrest in Philadelphia in reaction to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting should call the DAO Special Investigation Unit hotline at 215-686-9608.
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.