Body Cam Footage of Walter Wallace Jr. Shooting Sparks More Protests in Philly

Vehicle from Virginia

A parking violation envelope is affixed to the windshield of a Hummer vehicle parked near the Pennsylvania Convention Center where votes are being counted, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Philadelphia. Police said Friday they arrested two men Thursday for not having permits to carry firearms near the center. Police said the men acknowledged that the Hummer spotted by officers near the center was was their vehicle. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

By Christina Kristofic

November 5, 2020

Police said they shot Walter Wallace Jr. on Oct. 26 because he had a knife and ignored orders to put it down. Wallace never raised the knife or lunged or ran toward officers.

PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of protesters again took to the streets Wednesday night to protest the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. last week after police released body camera footage of the shooting and the 911 recording that took police to Wallace’s home.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw also identified the officers who shot and killed Wallace as Sean Matarazzo, 25, and Thomas Munz, 26. Neither had more than three years of experience in the department.

Outlaw said this is the first time the police department has released body camera footage.

“With this release, the world will see we are engaging in an open process—a process that acknowledges the harm our actions have caused,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

Kenney and Outlaw promised to put reforms in place by late next year that include more deescalation for officers and better coordination with mental health professionals. Outlaw also has requested that the city give the police department more than $14 million, so it can equip every police officer with a Taser.

But some activists say that’s not enough.

The Amistad Law Project, a public interest law firm in Philadelphia, is calling on Outlaw to fire Matarazzo and Munoz immediately.

“Walter Wallace Jr. should be alive today,” the group says in an online petition outlining its demands. The petition had more than 950 signatures by 6:40 Thursday morning.

“The police should be held accountable after killing someone, not rewarded with more resources.”

Matarazzo and Munoz acted recklessly when Wallace’s family was trying to deescalate the situation, the group says. 

“We can’t afford for these officers to continue patrolling our neighborhoods,” the group says. “We can’t afford them causing more terror and harm.”

The group also calls on the city to ban police officers from responding to mental health calls, and deny the police department’s request for more funding.

Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, was struggling with mental illness. His family called 911 for help several times the day of the shooting.

Matarazzo and Munoz arrived instead and shot Wallace in the middle of the street.

Both officers were taken off duty immediately after the shooting, as police and the District Attorney’s office investigate.

Wallace’s death sparked days of protests in Philadelphia, and protests in cities across the country.

The 911 Calls

The Philadelphia police dispatch center received three calls related to Wallace around 3:45 p.m. Oct. 26. One call was made by a neighbor, another by Wallace’s sister, and another by an unidentified man.

In the first call, the neighbor asks for the police to come, saying “the people next door is fightin’.”

In the second call, Wallace’s sister says her brother is hitting her parents. “He on probation and everything. He’s got a taste for um bein’ violent n’ everything,” she says. “He got a whole record.”

She says her mother’s blood pressure is up and her father’s about to faint. She does not mention that her brother has mental illness.

Wallace’s sister hangs up before police dispatch connects her to a medic.

In the third call, a young man says, “my mom needs help.” The rest of the call is unintelligible.

The Body Camera Footage

The approximately four-and-a-half-minute video—a composite of footage from both officers’ cameras—begins shortly after Matarazzo and Munoz arrive at Wallace’s home.

Seconds after the officers turn on their body cameras, Wallace walks out of the house loosely holding a knife in one hand down by his side and stands on the porch for a few seconds.

The officers are one the sidewalk, one on each side of the porch steps. As soon as they see the knife, they pull their guns and yell at Wallace to “put the knife down.”

Wallace walks slowly down the porch steps. He initially ambles toward one officer, and then changes direction and walks between two cars to go across the street. 

A woman’s voice screams, “No! No! No! He’s mental! He’s mental!”

Another woman, who later identifies herself as Wallace’s mother, follows Wallace closely and tries to grab him, but he brushes her off. The cameras don’t pick up what she’s saying.

Wallace does not seem to respond to his mother, the screaming woman, or the officers.

As Wallace ambles around another car, one of the officers says, “Shoot him.”

An unidentified bystander attempts to grab Wallace, but Wallace shrugs that person off and steps away from him a little more quickly than he had been walking.

Wallace never raises the knife, or lunges or runs toward the officers.

Still, the officers shoot him, each firing seven rounds.

Wallace falls to the ground in the middle of the street, and his mother rushes to his side, screaming at the officers, “You killed my son.”

A pregnant woman in a pink coat joins Wallace’s mother, shouting at officers, “I told y’all he’s mental!”

Another bystander recorded video of the shooting and posted it to social media. The police body camera footage adds new context to the shooting.

The officers tell Wallace’s family, “We’re gonna get him to the hospital.”

“Get the car, get the car,” one officer says to the other. “We’ll scoop him.”

As other officers arrive on the scene, one of the officers who shot Wallace tells them, “He was f—ing chasing us.”

The patrol car pulls up and the video cuts off. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner told WHYY the video was trimmed at the family’s request.

The Investigation

The Philadelphia Police Department continues to investigate the shooting.

Krasner also is investigating the shooting, and promised on Wednesday that he will make his own decision about whether to file charges against Matarazzo and Munoz—independent of the police investigation.

An attorney for Wallace’s family has said they do not believe the officers should be charged with murder in Wallace’s killing.

Instead, Shaka Johnson called for additional training for Philadelphia police—”specifically on keeping people alive.” 

“Do not cause their death at your own hands,” Johnson said at a news conference. “I’m not suggesting that there aren’t times when lethal force, deadly force has to be used. I’m not suggesting that. This right here, Walter Wallace, this was not one of those times.”

Johnson has hinted that the family might file a civil lawsuit against the city and its police department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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