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What We Know About the Death of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia


On Monday afternoon, two Philadelphia police officers fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who was armed with a knife. In the nights that followed, protesters clashed with officers in the streets, and city officials imposed a curfew to try to curb the unrest.

The protests in Philadelphia were the latest in a series of demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality that have played out across the country since the spring. Millions have taken to the streets since the killing of George Floyd in police custody in May touched off a national outcry.

In an encounter that was captured in a video that circulated on social media, Mr. Wallace, holding a knife, walked toward the officers, who quickly moved backward and aimed their guns at him. In the video, someone yells repeatedly at Mr. Wallace to “put the knife down.” The camera points toward the ground as about a dozen shots are heard. After Mr. Wallace falls to the ground, his mother screams and rushes to his body.

Credit…Family photo via The Philadelphia Inquirer

Mr. Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., said his son had struggled with mental health issues and was on medication, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” he said. “His mother was trying to defuse the situation.”

For several nights after the shooting, hundreds of protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against what they saw as the excessive use of force by the police against people of color.

Nearly a dozen miles from where crowds were protesting on Wednesday night, businesses including a Walmart, a Lowe’s and a Five Below were looted.

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From Monday night through Thursday, 57 officers were injured in clashes with protesters and 212 people were arrested on charges including assault on police and burglary, the authorities said.

Since the death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis and the national outcry that followed, officials in Philadelphia have made some changes to make the police more accountable.

In June, they announced a moratorium on the use of tear gas and apologized for the response to a June protest after a New York Times visual investigation showed SWAT officers using tear gas and pepper spray on nonviolent protesters, some of whom were trapped as they tried to leave the highway where they were demonstrating. On Thursday, the City Council approved a ban on the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray on protesters who are exercising their First Amendment rights.

The shooting and its aftermath, which came days before the election in a swing state, reignited tensions in a country that was already on edge. The responses from President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., his opponent, underscored the deep divisions in the United States.

At a campaign rally in Wisconsin a day after the shooting, Mr. Trump said Philadelphia had been torn up by left-wing radicals. “Biden stands with the rioters, and I stand with the heroes of law enforcement,” he said, to cheers. “Just let them do their job.”

Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, condemned the looting in a joint statement, but said that nothing would be solved with a president who fanned “the flames of division in our society.”

Sgt. Eric Gripp, a spokesman for the Police Department, said in a statement that investigators were reviewing footage of the shooting and said that both officers were wearing body cameras. The police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, said she would release the footage from the body cameras and recordings of the 911 calls, according to The Inquirer.

Several City Council members said they would introduce legislation banning police stops for motor-vehicle code violations, including for broken taillights or failure to come to a complete stop at stop signs, The Inquirer reported.

Reporting was contributed by Johnny Diaz, Jon Hurdle, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Azi Paybarah and Campbell Robertson.





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