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Philadelphia police fatally shoot a black man who they say had a knife

By Azi Paybarah


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 the police clashing with demonstrators. Thirty police officers were injured, in most cases by bricks and rocks that were thrown by protesters, Sgt. Eric Gripp, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, said on Tuesday. One officer was treated at a hospital for a broken leg after she was hit by a pickup truck, he said.


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.”


Gripp 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.


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.


The Philadelphia 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.”


In a statement, John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, also asked for the public’s patience and defended 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,” he said. “We support and defend these officers, as they too are traumatized by being involved in a fatal shooting.”


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.”


Five police vehicles and one fire department vehicle were vandalized, Gripp said. At least 14 people were arrested for looting, he said.


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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