The Shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. and Philadelphia’s Response


Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Demonstrators and riot police face off a day after the shooting.

Cate McCusker, Co-News Editor

On the afternoon of Monday Oct. 26, two police officers fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a 27 year old Black man, during a confrontation in West Philadelphia.

According to KYW, police said the incident began with a call about a man with a knife. Family attorney Shaka Johnson told CNN that relatives had made at least three calls to authorities that day and that the initial call was for an ambulance, but the police arrived first.

In a video circulating on social media, Wallace is shown walking towards the officers as people yelled at him to put the knife down. The police officers are seen backing up and drawing their weapons before firing multiple shots. Wallace then falls to the ground as his mother screams and rushes towards him. Wallace was taken to Presbyterian Hospital where he passed away. 

According to CNN, JaHiem Simpson, who took a video of the police shooting, said a person, who he later learned was Wallace’s mother, told police that Wallace had mental health issues. Wallace’s family has said that he suffered from bipolar disorder and was in crisis at time of the shooting.

In the days following the incident, demonstrators marched in the streets of Philadelphia in protest against police brutality. 

Peaceful protests were held in Philadelphia Monday and Tuesday following the shooting of Wallace. Protestors organized at Malcom X Park on Oct. 27 and marched up 51st Street in Philadelphia. 

Some looting and property damage also occurred throughout Philadelphia as the night carried on. The Mayor’s Office mandated a city wide curfew beginning on Oct. 28 at 9 p.m. until Oct. 29 6 a.m. An additional curfew was implement on Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. and continued until Oct. 31 at 6 a.m. 

Mayor Jim Kenney also called in National Guard to curb riots and looting that broke out.

The two presidential candidates have had different responses to the shooting. On their presidential campaign website, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris issued a statement in response to the shooting. In the statement, Biden and Harris expressed their condolences for the Wallace family while condemning the violence and looting.

“As a nation, we are strong enough to both meet the challenges of real police reform, including implementing a national use of force standard, and to maintain peace and security in our communities,” Biden and Harris said

President Donald Trump expressed his opinion on the incident at a rally in Wisconsin.

“Biden stands with the rioters, and I stand with the heroes of law enforcement. Just let them do their job,” Trump said.

On Friday, members of the University community received an email from President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Ph.D., O.S.A about the progress of Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race. In the email, Donohue expressed his condolences as well.

“Today, Dr. Nance and I am happy to share the Task Force’s progress, but we do so with a heavy heart, as just this week another tragic death has occurred on the streets of Philadelphia,” Donohue wrote. “We would like to express our condolences to the family, friends, and neighborhood community of Mr. Walter Wallace, Jr. The greatest tribute we can pay the Walter Wallace family is our commitment to continue working for and demanding change. As James Baldwin once said, ‘The impossible is the least that one can demand.’”

The shooting is currently under investigation and Sgt. Eric Gripp, a spokesman for the Police Department, has stated that investigators are reviewing footage of the shooting, as the officers were wearing body cameras.