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Who was Walter Wallace Jr? Philadelphia cops spark massive BLM protests after shooting Black man ‘several times’

Identified as Walter Wallace Jr by family members, the 27-year-old Black man had a knife and was at least 10 feet away when Philadelphia Police officers fired bullet shots
UPDATED OCT 27, 2020

A 27-year-old Black man was shot dead on a Philadelphia street on Monday, October 26, 2020, afternoon after police officers yelled at him to drop his knife. The shooting occurred before 4 pm as officers responded to a report of a person with a weapon, police Sgt Eric Gripp said. As per the spokesperson, cops were called to the Cobbs Creek neighborhood and encountered the man — who was later identified as Walter Wallace.

Officers ordered Wallace to drop the knife, but he instead “advanced towards” them. Both officers then fired “several times,” police spokesperson Tanya Little said. Wallace was hit in the shoulder and chest. One of the officers then put him in a police vehicle and drove him to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later, Little said. As per a Philadelphia Inquirer report, Gripp said investigators are reviewing footage of what happened. Both officers were wearing body cameras.

A video soon went viral on the Internet where the bystander could be seen standing before police officers who were pointing their guns at him. The clip shows the man walking toward the officers as they back away with guns still aimed at him and yell at him to put his knife down. The cops then fired shots at him several times as a woman runs up to him screaming. While it's not clear whether he actually had a knife, witnesses at the spot said he was holding one.


Who was Walter Wallace Jr?

Identified as Walter Wallace Jr by family members, the 27-year-old Black man had a knife and was at least 10 feet away when Philadelphia Police officers fired at least 10 bullets at him. On social media, Wallace was dubbed “a father, a twin and son.” His mother begged the cops not to shoot. 

Walter Wallace Sr, the man’s father told Philadelphia Inquirer that his son appeared to have been shot 10 times. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” the senior Wallace asked outside a family residence on the block. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.” He also revealed that his son struggled with mental health issues and was on medication. “He has mental issues," Wallace said. "Why you have to gun him down?”

As per the same report, witness Maurice Holloway said he was on the street talking to his aunt when the cops arrived. Holding a knife in his hand, he was standing on the porch of his home, she recalled. According to her, Wallace’s mother chased after him as he walked down the steps of his porch. “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,’” the 35-year-old witness further elaborated. However, Wallace didn't listen to his mother. “He turns and then you hear the shots,” Holloway said. “They were too far from him; it was so many shots.” She added, “I don’t know what his demeanor was. I do know something had to be going on that wasn’t normal.”


How it sparked protests and online outrage

With loud chants of “Black Lives Matter”, dozens of protesters gathered at Malcolm X Park at 51st and Pine Streets. They marched to the police station at 55th and Pine Streets as yelled, “Say his name: Walter Wallace.” Photos and videos of the incident soon started floating around on the Internet. “Numerous shell casings are in the street. Neighbours are irate, crying, yelling at police,” Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Ellie Rushing tweeted from the scene. US Civil Rights lawyer Ben Crump also tweeted about the incident and said the man was shot at more than 10 times, and killed “in front of his loved ones”.



The incident sparked much outrage on social media and was met by cries to “Defund the Police.” One tweet read, “#WalterWallaceJr was shot multiple times and killed by @philadelphiapd. He allegedly had a knife. He suffered from mental illness. Compare his shooting to the way police respond to a mentally ill, knife wielding, white man. America,” and another said, “The Philadelphia Killed #WalterWallaceJr two blocks away from my house. F**k you if you think that a cop should shoot a mentally ill black man instead of trying to de-escalate. Y’all on Bulls**t.”



After watching the video, one Twitter user argued, “They told him repeatedly to drop the knife even that woman told him to drop the knife if you are told that “you will be shot if you don’t drop the knife” and then you charge at the officer you’re not in the right,” but another tried to defend Wallace. “Ever heard of a taser? Not to mention they could've shot him once in a non-lethal area instead of firing 12 shots all over his body.”

The debate didn't end there. One said, “They didn’t have to kill him, they wanted to,” but another posted, "Police don't shoot to wound. Don't come at police with a knife. I don't know why that's hard to understand. Not every police action is wrong. Breaking into businesses and stealing doesn't advance the cause.”