Philadelphians are grappling with a myriad of feelings after witnessing the police murder of Walter Wallace, Jr., 27, during a confrontation Monday afternoon in the 6100 block of Locust Street.
Family members concerned about Wallace’s mental health found their pleas answered by two white Philadelphia Police officers who were called to de-escalate the crisis but instead shot the distressed knife-wielding Black resident several times. Bystanders recorded the scene in a now-viral video depicting the dying man slumped to the pavement while his mother howls and swings at her son’s assassins.
Within hours, the 52nd Street business corridor erupted as protesters raged about another Black life — this time their neighbor, brother, father, friend — that didn’t seem to matter.
Over 90 people were arrested Monday night, and 30 police suffered injuries, including one officer still hospitalized.
Once again, we’ve experienced another day in America. This country is besieged with deadly police encounters upon Black and brown citizens that serve as a constant reminder of how devalued they are in our culture. Philadelphia has a long history of a white police force clashing with its residents of color.
Witnesses, including the victim’s father, Wallace, Sr, maintain that the police did not have to shoot his son, who was on medication and struggled with mental health.
According to the Mapping Police Violence website, Black people comprise 28% of the over 850 people killed by police in 2020, despite being only 13% of the population.
Philadelphia Police spokesperson Sgt. Eric Gripp said both officers were wearing body cameras and ordered Wallace to drop the weapon, and he “advanced towards the officers.” Currently, investigators are reviewing footage of what happened.
Earlier this year, community communications specialist and Yoruba priest Iya Marilyn Kai Jewett compiled the Beech Community Services Resource Directory with information on where to access behavioral health services. On Tuesday, she sent a passionate email imploring people to seek the proper crisis intervention trained staff.
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“DO NOT call the police if your loved one is suffering from an emotional or behavioral health trauma/breakdown/episode!” she wrote. “The police will not help them and might kill them, as we saw the Philadelphia police do yesterday. SMDH We have seen this happen time and time again throughout this nation when it comes to Black people. DON’T DO IT!”
“I work with the spiritual side of it,” Jewett explained when reached by phone. “The average person doesn’t know what to do when something like this happens.”
Jewett took a long, frustrated breath before continuing. “Oooooh, it hurts so bad because that could have been my son or grandson.”
“Please access [behavioral health services and organizations] to get our people help and save their lives,” Jewett added. “Please my people!”-30-
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