On Tuesday night, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf mobilized the National Guard to deploy in Philadelphia within 48 hours following the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who was reportedly shot in front of his mother.
The mobilization of several hundred guardsmen comes at the request of city officials, and according to a National Guard spokesperson who spoke with the Philadelphia Inquirer, they will assist police in “protecting life, property, and the right to peacefully assemble and protest.” The spokesperson did not address how long the service members will be deployed for, or if they would remain in the city in the face of potential election-related unrest next week.
According to reports, Wallace — whose family says he was taking medicine for mental-health issues — was shot around 4 p.m. after the Philadelphia Police Department received a call of a man with a knife at the corner of Locust and South 61st Streets in West Philadelphia. In a video of the incident, police officers had their guns drawn on Wallace as they paced backward into the street. Wallace moved toward the officers, then appeared to pause, before he was shot. According to one witness on the scene, Wallace’s mother tried to stop her son and shield him from the police, but he brushed off her attempts to diffuse the situation.
According to the Philadelphia Police Department, officers fired a total of 14 shots at the 27-year-old father, who was recently married. “Y’all ain’t have to give him that many shots,” said one man in the video of the incident. On Monday, Wallace’s father, Walter Wallace Sr., asked, “Why didn’t they use a Taser?” A lawyer representing the family said that the police were made aware of Wallace’s medical condition and that the family had made three 911 calls that day. The final call, which resulted in a visit from the officers that killed him, came from Wallace’s brother. He was requesting an ambulance.
Protests broke out soon after the homicide, and some demonstrators began engaging in violence around 11 p.m. on Monday. According to the city’s police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, officers arrested 76 people for commercial burglaries last night. Demonstrations continued into Tuesday night, with reports of police using pepper spray on crowds and some demonstrators throwing objects at officers in West Philadelphia, where PPD has asked residents to stay indoors. Looting has reportedly continued for a second night in Philadelphia, and demonstrators have reportedly also been arrested in Brooklyn.
The demonstrations in Philadelphia are some of the most prominent acts of unrest in a year of outrage over police brutality since the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August, when police officers shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, paralyzing him.