Thirty police officers were injured and twelve were hospitalized overnight in Philadelphia as Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters smashed windows, looted, and set fires in the city. A female officer was run over by a car and her leg was broken. The protests were in response to the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old Black man, named Walter Wallace. Wallace allegedly wielded a knife at an officer who then shot the man. According to CBSN Philly, the shooting occurred during a response to a domestic call at 3:50 p.m.
A cellphone video,(sensitive content) reported by local news station abc6 and filmed by a bystander, shows the suspect approaching the officers while wielding a knife. It is difficult to see a knife in the video, but witnesses reported seeing a knife in his hand. As he draws closer to the officer, several shots are fired and the man falls to the ground. The officers were heard shouting "put the knife down" as the man approached. CBS News/Philadelphia reports that "the suspect’s car was reportedly full of stolen merchandise."
CBSN reports that “[r]esponding officers witnessed a male on the block. Immediately they noticed he had a knife in his possession and he was brandishing it, and waiving it erratically,” said [Philadelphia Department spokesperson], Police Sgt. Eric Gripp...Upon being struck, the male immediately dropped the knife and was scooped up by one of the discharging officers who took him into his police car, drove him over to Presbyterian Hospital where, unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries.”
According to the Washington Post, the family is "asking why officers didn’t use less-lethal weapons to try to subdue him. Why didn’t they use a Taser?” Walter Wallace Sr., his father, asked the Philadelphia Inquirer, noting that his son was on medication. “He has mental issues. Why you have to gun him down?” Many residents echoed those sentiments saying the officers could have used a "taser" or "shot him in the leg."
As the evening progressed, officers were "overwhelmed" with the setting of fires, looting, rioting, and assault by the protestors. In another report last night abc6 affirms 33 arrests as of Tuesday morning quoted below:
- 10 people in connection with an incident at 55th & Pine streets
- 2 women arrested for looting at the S. 52nd Street Snipe Sneaker Store
- 4 men arrested for looting at the S. 52nd Street American Kids Store
- 4 men arrested for looting at the 7700 City Ave. Snipe Sneaker Store
- 1 man arrested for looting a Baltimore Ave. Rite Aid
- 3 men in connection with an ATM that was damaged and a Rite Aid that was looted
- 5 juveniles arrested for an incident at a Foot Locker near 52nd and Chestnut streets
- 3 men arrested in connection to an incident at a Rite Aid on Market Street
- 1 man arrested for looting the Jessabelle Restaurant on S. 45th Street
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw issued a statement on the incident today:
"I have directed the Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit to begin its investigation. 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. While at the scene this evening, I heard and felt the anger of the community. Everyone involved will forever be impacted. I will be leaning on what the investigation gleans to answer the many unanswered questions that exist. I also plan to join the Mayor in meeting with members of the community and members of Mr. Wallace's family to hear their concerns as soon as it can be scheduled."
Finally, a news conference around 1:30 p.m. today with the Mayor of Philadelphia and Police Commissioner Outlaw confirmed 91 arrested. A Corona Virus update was also included in the update so the report on the unrest begins at about the 35-minute mark. Eight Philadelphia Police Department vehicles were damaged; one was set on fire. A fire truck windshield was also damaged.
In June of 2020, the Philadelphia Police Department issued a "Crime Prevention and Violence Reduction Action Plan" in cooperation with the Department of Justice. These four Collaborative Reform Initiatives, initiated in 2013 during the Obama administration were listed as; a Six Month Assessment, Deadly Force Assessment, a 2015 President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and a Reform Implementation Matrix. Benchmarks and timelines were put in place to measure progress in the department.
Specific areas of challenge in policing were also addressed. These include areas such as the prevention of police corruption and initiatives on the reduction of deadly force in the department. The entire accountability plan for the Philadelphia Department of Police can be found here.
Police reform has been a hot topic on the campaign trail in 2020, with calls for police defunding in many cities across the country. President Trump has shown strong support for law enforcement during his time in office.