Walter Wallace shooting: Family of Philadelphia black man shot dead by police appeal for calm as second night of violence begins

Philadelphia protests.
Philadelphia protests. Photo credit: Getty.

The family of a Philadelphia Black man shot dead by police appealed for calm as a second night of protests over his death brought renewed violence, with clashes between police and demonstrators and some looting of stores.

Tension has gripped the streets of Philadelphia since Monday's deadly police shooting of Walter Wallace, 27, who was armed with a knife and described by relatives as suffering from a mental breakdown, in a confrontation with law enforcement.

Hundreds of marchers demanded racial justice with some jeering and skirmishing with police through the night and into early Wednesday, as Philadelphia became the latest flash point in the United States on issues of race and police use of force just days ahead of Tuesday's presidential election.

US President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term in office, has made policing a top campaign issue, with the White House overnight saying his administration is ready "to deploy any and all federal resources to end these riots."

Philadelphia and its largely minority population ranks as the largest city in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state in the race between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who has said he supports the police but wants to address needed reforms to address racial inequalities, among other issues.

Tuesday's rallies began peacefully but grew confrontational as darkness fell, just as on the previous day.

Police turned out in force to cordon off a West Philadelphia commercial district that was looted the previous night.

But looters broke into businesses elsewhere, including in the city's Port Richmond section, aerial news video from WPVI television showed. At times, police in riot gear shoved protesters back from barricade lines.

The dead man's father, Walter Wallace Sr., on Tuesday urged to people to "stop the violence" out of respect for his son and family.

"I don't condone no violence, tearing up the city, looting of the stores, and all this chaos," he told reporters and a gathering of people. "It's an SOS to help, not to hurt."

He also called for justice in a case still being investigated.

The unrest in Philadelphia follows that in other cities where police have killed Black men.

Tensions have stayed high at demonstrations across the nation since the May 25 death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

New York police arrested about 30 people as hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Brooklyn late on Tuesday following the Philadelphia shooting.

One police officer suffered "non-life threatening" injuries during the protests, a police spokesman said. Police said some of their vehicles were damaged and NBC News reported that someone tried to drive a car through a group of police.

The scene in Philadelphia resembled those in Minneapolis and other cities in recent months: a peaceful protest gives way after dark to looting and clashes with police.

The events have been leveraged for political purposes in the campaign for Tuesday's election, with liberals arguing for racial justice and police reform while conservatives decry the chaos and property damage.

"Our hearts are broken for the family of Walter Wallace Jr., and for all those suffering the emotional weight of learning about another Black life in America lost," Biden said on Twitter. "Walter's life mattered."

Trump has campaigned on "law and order" and reinforced that theme with his offer to send federal officers to Philadelphia, as he has in other cities that have experienced protest violence, even in cases where local officials have said they were unwanted.

Philadelphia police have yet to detail the night's arrests and injuries. Unrest the previous night had injured 30 officers and led to 90 arrests, they said.

The upheaval came hours after a bystander's video of the shooting was posted on social media.

The video showed Wallace approaching two police officers who had drawn their guns and warned him to put down the knife. The officers were backing up before the camera cut briefly away as gunfire erupted and Wallace collapsed.

Wallace suffered from bipolar disorder, and his psychological difficulties were relayed by his wife to the officers who encountered him before the shooting, a lawyer for his family said. 

Reuters