Protests raged for the second straight night in West Philadelphia following the shooting of a Black man with mental illness on Monday.
Walter Wallace Jr., 27, a father and an aspiring musician, was shot multiple times in front of his family’s home by two Philadelphia police officers on Oct. 26. Police have maintained Wallace was armed with a knife.
He was shot after he allegedly refused to drop the blade and “advanced towards” the two officers, Sgt. Eric Gripp said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com. Both officers discharged their firearms “several times,” he added. Police confirmed a knife was recovered from the scene.
Wallace’s family, who witnessed the shooting, however, criticized police for not deescalating the situation, noting the 27-year-old had long battled mental health issues.
"It could have been dealt with in a different way,” his father, Walter Wallace Sr., told CNN on Tuesday. “He could have called a superior to handle the situation.”
Wallace Jr.'s mother, too, claimed she begged police not to open fire on her son.
"I was telling police to stop,” Catherine Wallace told WPVI-TV. “Don't shoot my son, please don't shoot my son. “They paid me no mind, and shot my son.”
Wallace Jr. suffered from bipolar disorder and was undergoing an episode prior to his death, lawyers for the family said.
“He can't hurt a damn fly,” Walter Wallace Sr. told CNN. “He had mental issues."
Shaka Johnson, an attorney representing the family, said police arrived at the family’s home ahead of medical emergency services.
"Law enforcement was called because they wanted an ambulance to come here," Johnson told CNN. "The police are who arrived first."
Johnson, who was insistent the shooting was absolutely avoidable, condemned the actions of both Philadelphia police officers.
"Unfortunately, the officers were not equipped with the training or the proper equipment to deal with a person who was experiencing crisis in that moment," Johnson said. "You don't deal with crisis with a firearm."
The officers in question weren’t equipped with tasers, police confirmed.
The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave while detectives review body camera footage of the shooting. No charges have been made in Wallace Jr.'s shooting.
“As with all internal investigations, officers are taken off the street,” Eric McLaurin, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
Video of the fatal police shooting, captured by bystanders, however, shows two uniformed officers standing in the street with their guns drawn. Wallace Jr., who quickly enters the frame of the video, appears to walk toward the two officers as they back away from him. Moments later, the cackle of gunfire erupted in the Philadelphia neighborhood.
“They went straight to killing Wallace in front of his loved ones!” Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who represents the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake, wrote on Twitter.
On Monday, protesters flooded Philadelphia’s streets as news of Wallace Jr.'s' shooting rapidly spread through the city. However, not all of it was peaceful: riots started in some areas with people hurling bricks and rocks at police. One officer suffered a broken leg after being struck with a pick-up truck, a police spokesperson confirmed with Oxygen.com. Numerous storefronts were looted. Officials asked residents to remain indoors in a number of the city’s districts.
Meanwhile, in New York, police made more than two dozen arrests as riots and looting also occurred in Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Multiple police vehicles were spray painted and had their windows smashed, and several businesses also sustained damage, authorities said. Five officers were injured in the mayhem.
“The group of protesters committed various acts of vandalism to both commercial properties and to police vehicles,” Detective Denise Moroney of the New York City Police Department told Oxygen.com.
The unrest was mostly contained by midnight on Tuesday, according to New York Police Department officials.
Wallace’s family are now grieving the sudden loss of the 27-year-old. The Philadelphia father and hip-hop artist had several children, relatives said. He had been married earlier this month.
"These are all school-aged children so now his children have to grow up knowing that the police officers killed [their] father," Anthony Fitzhugh, Wallace's cousin, told NBC affiliate WCAU.
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